A Day in the Life of a DH Family

March 27, 2012 in Reflecting

By day, I am the Digital Projects Librarian for the Indiana University Digital Library Program.  By night, I am the Digital Projects Librarian for the Indiana University Digital Library Program (DLP).  I am also wedded to John Walsh, editor of the Swinburne Project and professor at our Library and Information Science school where he teaches seminars on Digital Humanities and Digital Libraries and courses like XML publishing.  We also have been known more recently to tote our babies to DH-related conferences so we have already begun the molding process. [1]

It’s no surprise then that discussions about digital humanities — from modeling texts following the TEI guidelines to DH pedagogy — are common place at home and at work.  These conversations are of course punctuated by toddler tantrums, volleyball practices, leaky plumbing and so on, but work/home boundaries are often blurred, usually for better, sometimes for worse (blame our tenure pressures), but fuzzy nonetheless.

The DLP has a long history of supporting digital humanities projects and research, and I have been fortunate to have been involved to lesser or greater degrees in most of these projects.  I mostly manage electronic text projects, ranging from mid-level encoding to scholarly projects, but I also have managed and/or play a significant role in software development that supports our electronic text delivery services and workflows.  I work with an amazing group of folks — technologists, designers, librarians and faculty to name a few — each of whom contribute critical expertise to any given project that I manage.  They also easily morph into other roles since we often operate under the “jack of all trades” model.  So, we bend all ways and are known to cross-dress, and that’s a-ok.

I am also especially lucky to work with Dot Porter who heads my division.  With Dot, we have recently been developing more of a service-model for standard digital library workflows, but also models for fostering and supporting digital humanities research and pedagogy at IU.  I write this while sitting in one of many meetings scheduled for me today, the Libraries’ All Staff meeting, an annual meeting where our Dean of Libraries shares major accomplishments and upcoming initiatives.  One such initiative important for the livelihood of digital humanities at IU is a newly proposed Digital Research Center — a prominently placed center where faculty can interact with subject specialists, scholarly communication librarians, metadata specialists, and technologists  to cultivate research projects while also benefiting from our more basic service models (i.e., digitizing and describing cultural heritage artifacts and documentary photography) so that the transformation process into the magical digital world is streamlined.  Documents (according to Briet’s definition of a document) are made generally accessible while also prepped for scholarly inquiry.

One of the more interesting conundrums on campus, which if coordinated properly, could create expansive opportunities and collaborations with humanities faculty (as opposed to divisive, competing factions) are the many front-doors (and not so front-facing doors) we have on campus supporting digital humanities research.  These units are part of the Library, central computing, or both as in our case, the Office of the Vice Provost for Research, and more recently in the College of Arts and Sciences.  In most cases, we are aware of each other and do coordinate efforts, but we hope to improve ways in which we can truly serve as multiple access points that can bring the collective together in support of teaching and research in the DH realm.   We need to realize the benefits of a decentralized model — DH is then more “in the flow,” or insinuated in home departments — while still bringing the hybrid sets of folks and expertise that may reside elsewhere on campus to the proverbial table.  I am a bit of a control freak, but with the help of medication, sincerely feel that the comfort I may receive (mostly from just knowing what the frack is going on and even that is questionable) from a central DH model, or “the DH center,” can be counter to outreach and successful collaborations in the context of the academy.

One small step of many steps in this attempt to improve cross-communication across the various DH spaces on campus — whether occupied by squatters or tenants benefiting from rent control — is the planning (another meeting today) of a DH and Libraries blog that aims to highlight the libraries’ role, not as subservient-these-are-our-services-can-we-help-you, but more of the we-haz-mad-skillz-and-can-innovate-alongside-you-yo!   [2]  We’d like to use the blog as one way to bring together the various DH spaces and those who occupy those spaces on campus by  featuring local projects, tools and partnerships (so many rogue and closeted DHers on campus), promote DH services (by way of the Digital Research Center), explore DH pedagogy, review other projects and tools that somehow relate to projects happening locally, ongoing initiatives, etc., DH conference reporting, and more goals I can’t recall at the moment.  Hopefully it’s not just_another_blog.  The intended audience is local (which may help in its relevancy and livelihood), but hopefully some of the posts will appeal to others.  Stay tuned for that.

Anyway, I had to ask Dot to postpone our meeting 15 minutes so I could wrap up this post, which may be my only one today, send an email to dean-types, and eat.  Now I only have 6 minutes to eat.  Ack.  That happens a lot.  DL/DH things get in the way of me eating.  You’d think I’d be a lot thinner though.

Happy Day of DH!

[1] Since posting this I read Tanya Clement’s spot-on post on being a woman, mother and DHer and I lament glossing over some of the hurdles and joys of raising a family when both mom and dad have tenure pressures, overachiever complexes (me especially), etc.  My comment to Tanya’s post sums up my take on the DH Family.

[2] The BIG step of course is the newly conceived Digital Research Center.

 

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