Digital Humanities and Its Implications for Libraries and their Patrons: Part 3
An Interview with Harriett Green, English and Digital Humanities Librarian and Assistant Professor of Library Administration at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Matt Conner, Librarian at the University of California, Davis, and author of a newly released book, The New Library: Four Case Studies (ALA)
Editor’s Note: This interview is the final post in a three-part series of interviews with Harriett Green, conducted by Matt Conner, about digital humanities.
PART 3: Promotion of Digital Humanities to a New Audience
Matt: Can you tell me about your liaison work with departments and how you promote digital humanities?
Harriett: My approach has been to take up embedded librarianship where you really try to get involved with the faculty and students in the department.
So, I’ve been reaching out with anything from email newsletters to showing up at department events. There were a couple professors who already have pretty strong ties to the library and came in a lot already. Sometimes just talking to them about the collection and their class needs has led to me saying, “I can teach a class. Or send your students in and I can have research consultations with them.” I think I’m beginning to build more instruction programming and outreach and finding different ways to support them.
Matt: What kind of instruction do you do?
Harriett: The 300 and 400 level classes are where I’m working because introductory writing is handled by the undergraduate library. I’m doing research sessions such as showing ProQuest Historical Newspapers, how to use primary resources, how to approach the research process. I also include MLA, ABELL, and the Literature Resource Center, and I show how to find secondary sources. It seems that in the lower level classes, the 100 to even the early 300, they’re mostly just using the primary text and doing close readings. It’s not until the 300s and 400s where they’re doing the research that the professor feels like I should bring them in. But a lot of professors do take students to the rare book and manuscript library as well.
Digital Humanities and Teaching Practices
Matt: Is there a sense of how digital humanities is changing instruction as opposed to research? Are they using these tools in class? I mean I guess they would informally but are there changes in instruction that you can speak to?
Harriett: Yes, definitely. I’ve read about it a lot more than I’ve actually done it. But there’s definitely this movement that they call digital pedagogy where they’re talking about using these kinds of tools in the classroom, teaching students how to code. Teaching basic tools like having students blog and document their thought processes and that way. There’s a blog on Chronicle of Higher Education called ProfHacker. It’s a group blog by academics, and several have talked about digital pedagogy and what they’re doing specifically to incorporate it into the classroom. There are several good examples of small digital humanities projects that bring students into the research process. For the past couple years, Kate Benzel, an English professor from the University of Nebraska at Kearney was using our Carl Sandburg Archive. We digitized a bunch of his letters and notes, and she and a student were marking up the digitallly transcribed Sandburg’s notes in TEI text encoding. In his notes, he writes marginalia referring back to classical texts and other texts that he used for his poetry. And they were marking up that marginalia, then going back and finding the source texts for those marginalia and linking it to his poetry. I think that’s the kind of digital pedagogy that people are doing which is having students use these digital tools to look at the text closely and do close readings.
Matt: So, it’s not just the passive reception on a screen of what tools can do. Students are actually getting in and doing it.
Harriett: Right and having students use these tools in different ways. And it’s becoming a larger and larger movement as digital humanities really kind of started as research. Now they’ve done research and they want to know how to bring it into the classroom.