Marius Warholm Haugen

A blog about libraries, literature and (digital) scholarship.


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Forskningsservice 2014 – Tilgjengelig, nærværende, synlig?

Den 12. juni deltok Anne L. Lorange og jeg på NEFUS temadag: Forskningsservice 2014 – Tilgængelig, nærværende, synlig? Temadagen ble avholdt ved Syddansk universitet i Odense. NEFUS, Netværk for Forskningsunderstøttende Services, som er et forum organisert av Danske Fag-, Forsknings- og Uddannelsesbiblioteker, (tidligere Danmarks Forskningsbiblioteksforening, DF).

Jeg presenterte posteren ”Fleksibilitet og faglig forankring – Modulbaserte ph.d.-kurs fra NTNU Universitetsbiblioteket”, med informasjon om Universitetsbibliotekets nye kurspakke for ph.d-kandidater, som skal lanseres til høsten. Posteren ble laget i kompaniskap med Hege Charlotte Lysholm Faber.

Her finner du:

Presentasjonene og posterne fra temadagen

Twitterstrømmen fra NEFUS temadag

Forskningsservice, forskerservice, forskningstjenester, ”research support services”: Alle disse termene betegner det samlede sett av fagbibliotekenes tjenester som skal understøtte forskningen og forbedre forskernes arbeidsflyt. Mitt inntrykk etter denne temadagen er at skandinaviske fagbiblioteker tenker ganske likt når det gjelder definisjonen og avgrensningen av slike tjenester. I det store og det hele er det et visst sett med tjenester som går igjen: kurs og veiledning i informasjonskompetanse, referansehåndtering, informasjon og støtte til Open Access-publisering, tjenester knyttet til bibliometriske analyser.

I tillegg kommer tjenester som ikke finnes ved alle fagbibliotek, men som står på trappene til å bli mer utbredt: behandling og arkivering av forskningsdata, informasjon og støtte til synliggjøring av forskning og etablering av forskernettverk på nett, støtte til ulike typer digitale verktøy. Som et eksempel på det sistnevnte det nevnes at Det Samfundsvidenskabelige Fakultetsbibliotek i København prøver ut å levere grunnleggende støtte til bruk av NVIVO, et analyseverktøy for kvalitative data. Posteren deres beskrev tendensene i tidligere statsminister Fogh Rasmussens nyttårstaler. Hvilke ord han har brukt mest i sine taler blir uthevet i posteren som er laget som en ordsky ved bruk av wordle.

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Et stadig tilbakevendende punkt for temadagens deltakere var hvordan tjenestene skal kunne best tilpasses til forskernes arbeidsflyt og tidspress. Bertil Dorch, direktør for Syddansk Universitetsbibliotek, understreket at gode forskningstjenester avhenger av at biblioteket leverer verktøy og tjenester i samsvar med arbeidsflyten til forskerne, og at disse helst også må være skreddersydd etter den enkelte forskningsdisiplin. Og slik Gunilla Wiklund og Hanna Voog fra Lunds universitets bibliotek [sic] betimelig påpekte i sitt innlegg, må vi stadig spørre oss om vår befatning med forskerne oppfattes som lettende på tidspresset deres, eller snarere som et forstyrrende element som øker presset.

Etter at man nå lenge har diskutert hva forskningstjenester er eller bør være, ser det ut til at perspektivet er i ferd med å flyttes over på hvordan tjenestene best bør organiseres. Dette var for meg det mest interessante punktet på temadagen. Spørsmålet om organisering er uløselig knyttet til hvordan vi skal lykkes med å nå de tre målene som Wiklund og Voog fra Lund skisserte for gode forskningstjenester: tilgjengelighet, synlighet og nærhet.

Bør kompetansen konsentreres på spesialiserte arbeidsgrupper eller skal alle fagreferenter/fagansvarlige ha ansvar for forskningstjenester opp i mot egne miljøer? Det er neppe et enhetlig svar på dette, ettersom bibliotekene i utgangspunktet organiserer seg svært ulikt, det ligger allikevel mye lærdom i andres erfaringer. På flere fagbiblioteker både i Danmark og Sverige har man egne koordinatorer for forskningstjenestene. Og ved Humaniora-biblioteket på Københavns universitet har de et forskningstjeneste-team bestående av fem personer.

Ved HumSam vil muligens en organisering av de fagansvarlige i team, delt opp for eksempel langs fakultetsgrensene, være en god løsning, og noe vi har anledning til å prøve ut i oppstarten med vår nye kurspakke for ph.d.-kandidater.

Kanskje sitter man igjen med flere spørsmål enn svar etter en slik temadag. Men dette er viktige spørsmål som må stilles for at vi skal kunne videreutvikle forskningstjenestene våre, for å gjøre vårt til at forskningen ved NTNU skal bli enda bedre.

 

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Opening keynote confirmed for emtacl -15

It is a pleasure to announce Peter Morville as our opening keynote for the emtacl -15 conference.

Peter Morville is a writer, speaker, and consultant. He is best known for co-creating the discipline of information architecture. His bestselling books include Information Architecture for the World Wide Web: Designing Large-Scale Web Sites, Ambient Findability: What We Find Changes Who We Become, and Search Patterns: Design for Discovery.  He blogs at findability.org.

emtacl -15, Emerging Technologies in Academic Libraries will be held in Trondheim, 20-22 April 2015. Read more here.

emtacl is a technology-oriented conference for both scholars and information professionals working in higher education. As such, we are interested in gathering the most respected speakers within their fields to provide ideas and inspiration that will help shape the work of the information profession in academic institutions.

It is the perfect meeting point for information professionals and scholars alike with an interest in technological developments and innovation in teaching and research. This year, we are planning to host a panel designated to the digital humanities.

Save the dates!


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Universitetsbiblioteket som fotballdommer, og andre tanker om forskningstjenester

Dette innlegget ble opprinnelig publisert på «Forskarbloggen» (anbefales!) til Stockholms Universitetsbibliotek, og er mine tanker fra en ukes opphold der.

Med utgangspunkt i mitt arbeid med å utrede forskertjenestene ved NTNU Universitetsbiblioteket i Trondheim, ble jeg nysgjerrig på hvordan de drev med dette ved Stockholms Universitetsbibliotek. Jeg hadde hørt Thomas Neidenmark, som da var forskningskoordinator ved SUB, holde et innlegg på SFIS-konferansen i Malmö i april. Jeg ble spesielt interessert da han fortalt om Stockholm University Press (SUP), at biblioteket hadde fått i oppdrag å drive universitetets forlagsvirksomhet. At SUB i det hele tatt hadde gått til det skritt å ansette en forskningskoordinator, antydet at dette var et bibliotek som virkelig satset på å gi gode, relevante tilbud som kan lette og forbedre forskernes arbeid.

Takket være et stipend fra NBF avdeling Sør-Trøndelag, fikk jeg så anledning til å reise til Stockholm en uke i september for å hospitere ved SUB og lære mer om deres arbeid med forskertjenester. Det ble et meget lærerikt opphold. Et tettpakket og variert program gav meg innblikk i mange deler av virksomheten.

Det var spesielt interessant for meg å se hvilke typer oppgaver SUB har fått ansvar for som ikke tradisjonelt har lagt til biblioteket: publiseringsvirksomheten gjennom Stockholm University Press, print on demand-tjeneste, ansvar for universitetsrankingene. I tillegg har SUB stor tyngde innen bibliometri, blant annet ved å ha ansatt en egen bibliometriker. Utviklingen her er meget spennende, og dette er områder som NTNU UB allerede «snuser på», eller vil kunne komme til å gå inn på i en ikke alt for fjern fremtid. Jeg ser fram til å kunne opprettholde kontakten med SUB, og skal særlig følge med argusøyne det videre arbeidet med publiseringsvirksomheten.

Jeg er derimot noe avventende til hvordan SUB skal kunne opprettholde en tett kontakt med fagmiljøene de skal betjene, særlig når de har gått bort fra ordningen med «ämnesbibliotekarier». Jeg er overbevist om at vår egen ordning med såkalt fagansvarlige, universitetsbibliotekarer med utdanning innen sine ansvarsområder, muliggjør en viktig oppfølging av forskernes behov, skreddersydde veiledninger og et kvalitativt grunnlag for vurdering av porteføljen for e-ressurser. Det er klart at å ansette folk med forskerkompetanse er relativt kostbart. Likevel vil gevinsten være stor ved å ha slik kompetanse på biblioteket i en tid der forskertjenestene får en stadig mer fremtredende plass.

Når man skal se for seg hvordan biblioteket tydeligere og mer systematisk kan tilby forskertjenester, er det lett å fokusere på nye, ambisiøse og spennende tjenester. Samtidig er det en stor del av vår kjernevirksomhet som utgjør en sentral del av forskerhverdagen for svært mange, uten å være hverken særlig spektakulær eller synlig. Tilgjengelighet til ressursene, både trykt og i e-format, er nøkkelord her.

I den forbindelse var det en tankevekker at SUB nylig har begynt å tilby sending av dokumenter til forskernes kontoradresser. Dette er et tilbud vi ved NTNU UB har hatt i mange år, og som både forskere og vi selv muligens har tatt for gitt. Imidlertid er dette en svært viktig tjeneste som helt konkret letter hverdagen for forskerne. Å få satt dette i perspektiv var for meg en påminnelse om at den viktigste servicen vi tilbyr forskerne, er den som ikke er synlig, så lenge den fungerer. Biblioteket er kanskje litt som fotballdommere, de beste legger man ikke merke til, når alt fungerer som det skal.


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What Kind of Library, for What Kind of Digital Humanities?

I would like to address certain key issues concerning the role of the academic library within the domain of the Digital Humanities. There are particular challenges to discussing this topic, due to the continuously moving definition of the term digital humanities (DH), on one hand, and to certain unresolved questions concerning the nature of the academic library, on the other. In other words, what do we mean by digital humanities, and what do we mean by library? Or, to be more precise, what kind of library do we need for what kind of digital humanities?
I could have posed this last question in terms of service structure: what should the library do in order to answer to the requirements of digital scholarship? However, by asking this I would get us started at the wrong end, with the modern creed of the library as a pure service institution with no other function but to answer to the express wishes of its users, students and faculty staff. I’m not dismissing the fact that the library is as service institution, but I believe that focusing too much on this can be an obstacle for the development of academic libraries. Therefore, I boldly put forward the following statement: when it comes to the digital humanities, when it comes to the development of new digital methods, tools and practices within the humanities and the social sciences, libraries and librarians can and should play a role as innovators, instigators and explorers.
Before explaining further what I mean by this, we need to understand some of the key issues at stake in the (rather indistinct) field of the digital humanities. There is a debate going on these days to determine whether DH should be considered translational or transformative. Do our new tools completely transform the nature of humanist scholarship, move us into a new paradigm of scholarly practice, or simply allow us to do better what we’ve always been doing? The example of big data serves as a good illustration here: for some, computational analyses of vast text corpora has finally moved literary criticism into the domain of real, hardcore science, allowing for objective criteria with which to assess texts. For others, such analyses do not free us from interpretive practice, but rather offer us new perspectives that would remain hidden without the help of computers, and which then can become the objects of an hermeneutical inquiry that fundamentally remains the same.
Another important debate discusses whether or not doing digital humanities has to entail programming skills, in other words whether it is about building stuff, actually creating the software tools for studying cultural objects. The view that it necessarily entails programming skills discards both scholars in the practice field, where such tools are «simply» being applied, and those who take on a meta-perspective on the digital turn, studying what existing tools are doing to the humanities and to our culture in general. This discussion reveals an interesting question: how much knowledge of the underlying structures of the digital world we move in is needed for scholars, and librarians, in order to create, to use and to understand it? Will, for instance, knowledge about programming language be a prerequisite for literary scholars who are going to analyze electronic books?
It may not be necessary for academic librarians who wish to contribute to the field of DH to take a stand on all these questions. But it is important that we are aware of them, and essential that we make distinctions between different aspects of digital scholarship, so that we might determine where and how our institutions and we as librarians have a role to play. I therefore suggest that we systemize the field as follows. Digital humanities can be perceived as:

creating tools
developing methods
using the tools and the methods
teaching the tools and the methods
the meta-perspective I: analyzing the effect of the tools and the methods
the meta-perspective II: analyses based on the materiality of cultural objects (digital archives, e-books etc.)

For each of these points there is another set of points that distinguish between the different uses one may have of the digital tools and methods:

tools and methods for scholarly analysis
tools and methods for presentation, visualization and teaching
tools and methods for reference management, sharing and networking
tools and methods for editing and publication
tools and methods for data preservation and curation

Let me give you some examples: Imagine a scholar putting large corpora of texts into a computer program that allows him or her to discover patterns that previously went undetected. Or another scholar using historical data to create a visualization of specific networks of people on a specific timeline. Or yet another sharing bibliographical references and full texts with other scholars on a web based reference management tool. Someone has to make that program, someone has to develop a method of how to use it, someone has to use the program, teach it, study the methodological and theoretical implications of such a use. In certain cases this could be the same person, in other cases it would be natural that different people make it, use it, develop new methods of use that the creator didn’t foresee, that someone else takes on the meta-perspective from outside, and so on and so forth.
It is the latter case, where tools and methods are disseminated, shared and redeveloped, that seems for me to be the most characteristic of the DH communities, dominated by a certain ethos of sharing, of open source and open access. This is, for instance, a central element of the Manifesto for the Digital Humanities, created at a ThatCamp, the Humanities and Technologies Camp in Paris in 2010 (Dacos 2011). Underlying this ethos is the understanding that tools, methods and practices within a field that is in constant movement are developed through an iterative process, meaning that the experiences we make, both in success and failure, modify our needs, goals and hypotheses. In such a process, sharing knowledge and experience with others, especially with others who have different competencies and skills than ourselves, is essential. In such a community, librarians are in possession of specific sets of skills, competencies and knowledge, explicit as well as tacit, that are highly valuable and not seldom unique. For quite some time now, academic libraries have advocated open access publication. In addition to this, there is obviously something fundamental about the very idea of the library that nourishes a culture of sharing and openness. Could we go so far as to claim that libraries and  librarians are in a particularly privileged position to contribute to the DH-communities, by the very nature of their professional culture?

What seems to be underlying all the different forms of doing digital humanities that I listed is not only a purely technological aspect, but a common set of ideas, of which openness and sharing constitute an important aspect. According to Matthew Kirschenbaum, «[a]t its core […] digital humanities is more akin to a common methodological outlook than an investment in any one specific set of texts or even technologies». (Kirschenbaum 2012) Perhaps most fundamental of all is the fact that the digital humanities represent a preoccupation with the organization and dissemination of knowledge, coinciding with that of libraries :

«[…] of all scholarly pursuits, Digital Humanities most clearly represents the spirit that animated the ancient foundations at Alexandria, Pergamum, and Memphis, the great monastic libraries of the Middle Ages, and even the first research libraries of the German Enlightenment. It is obsessed with varieties of representation, the organization of knowledge, the technology of communication and dissemination, and the production of useful tools for scholarly inquiry». (Ramsay 2010)

So apparently, conditions are favorable for academic libraries to contribute to the field of digital humanities. But this still says fairly little about the actual practices, and about what kind of library we need for the digital humanities. In other words, it remains to be determined at a specific level, answering to the distinctions I made previously, what libraries are doing or could be doing. Exactly how should libraries and librarians contribute to the iterative processes of developing tools and methods for digital scholarship?
What most libraries actually do, of course, regardless of whether they’re engaged explicitly with DH-communities or not, is giving access to digital data, structured and unstructured. It is clear that this is contributing to the digital development within the humanities, but there seems to be dearly little investigation going on within the libraries as to exactly how this is contributing. As librarians, we seldom know enough about how the data we deliver could and could not be used, for example when it comes to running them through computational analyses or using them for advanced visualizations in both teaching and research.
There seems to be an understanding for an increased need of access to large document corpora, both of texts, sound and images, i.e. to digital primary sources; but I fear we tend to focus almost exclusively on access, retrievability and content, and very little on malleability, of what actually can be done with the specific data on the specific platform where they are accessed. I believe that in a very near future, the knowledge that the library can acquire about the practices of scholars, and about the potential for innovation within these practices, will be of utmost importance with regard to our acquisition policy. More and more we will have to take into account the criteria of malleability.
Today, we quite naturally leave the actual use of our resources to the scholars, after having made sure that they know how to find and search within them. What we too often tend to ignore is that the practices of our scholars depend not only on content and retrievability, but also to a large extent on the form and structure of the resources we give them access to. And even more importantly in this context, the possibilities that scholars have of changing, improving and innovating their practices, depend largely on the form and structure of the digital resources and, not least, on knowledge about this.

It is exactly at this point that I’m convinced we ought to move away from the idea of the library as a pure service institution, to nuance our attitude that says that the customer (the scholar, the student) always knows best when it comes to doing the actual scholarship. In the case of the digital humanities, sticking with this laudable attitude would mean that libraries and librarians refrained from:

creating tools
developing methods
using the tools and the methods

and would be teaching the tools and the methods only to the extent that these were used for

reference management
sharing and networking
editing and publication

and not for scholarly analysis and teaching. It would also mean refraining from assuming a meta-perspective that goes beyond our own core practices. But if the exploration and discovery of new methods depend on the nature of the data that the library gives access to, the library needs to participate in this exploration, in such a way that librarians can learn what scholars do, what they don’t do and what they dream of doing, and that the scholars can learn, by access to the explicit and tacit knowledge of librarians, what it is possible to do and what they didn’t even now they dreamt of doing. Throw in a handful of computer geeks, together with the institutional conditions for trial and error, and you have the recipe for an exiting and productive future.

From this perspective, the question «What kind of library for what kind of digital humanities» has to be approached from two sides: not only does the digital development of the humanities decide what kind of library we are going to need; but how the library develops will also determine what kind of digital humanities, or perhaps simply what kind of humanities, we are going to be doing.

Works cited:

Dacos, M. (2011). «Manifeste des Digital humanities.» Retrieved 10-22-2013, 2013, from http://tcp.hypotheses.org/318.

Kirschenbaum, M. (2012). What Is Digital Humanities and What’s It Doing in English Departments? Debates in the Digital Humanities. M. K. Gold, U of Minnesota P: 3-11.
Ramsay, S. (2010). «Care of the soul. Lecture conducted from Emory University.» Retrieved 11-07-13, 2013, from http://stephenramsay.us/text/2010/10/08/care-of-the-soul/.

Further reading:
Caraco, B. (2012). «Les digital humanities et les bibliothèques: un partenariat naturel.» Bulletin des Bibliothèques de France 57(2): 69-73.

Kamada, H. (2010). «Digital humanities: Roles for libraries?» College & Research Libraries News 71(9): 484-485.

Munoz, T. (2012). Digital humanities in the library isn’t a service. https://gist.github.com/trevormunoz/3415438. 2013.

Nowviskie, B. (2011). «A Skunk in the Library.» Retrieved 10-31-2013, 2013, from http://nowviskie.org/2011/a-skunk-in-the-library/.
Sula, C. A. (2013). «Digital Humanities and Libraries: A Conceptual Model.» Journal of Library Administration 53(1): 10-26.