Because we're living in a digital world

Because we're living in a digital world

Scholarly work has become increasingly digital, which means librarian skill sets must do the same.
August 6, 2019

Five years ago, Mary Ann Mavrinac, vice provost and the Andrew H. and Janet Dayton Neilly Dean of the University of Rochester Libraries, and the former director of Rochester’s Digital Scholarship Lab, Nora Dimmock, took a hard look at digital humanities.

Mavrinac and Dimmock saw digital humanities moving from the fringes of scholarly activity to its core. They also noted that it was common for mid-career librarians to be without digital skills and competencies—primarily because they weren’t given the opportunity to learn. 

Fueled by a Mellon grant and support from the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), these insights became the foundation of what is now the Digital Scholarship Institute (DSI)

The DSI is a five-day digital learning experience primarily for research library professionals. Each day offers sessions that help attendees develop the skills, competencies, and strategies they need to be stronger contributors, partners, and co-creators in digital scholarship projects.

“As librarians, our job is to support the academic mission of our institution,” says Emily Sherwood, director of Rochester’s Digital Scholarship Lab. “To do that properly, we need to stay current on emerging trends in research and teaching. That increasingly requires familiarity with digital tools and methods.”

Rochester just finished hosting the fourth DSI, held July 29 through August 2 in Rush Rhees Library. 

Who was there?

There were 31 librarians in the student cohort, including four from Rochester’s staff. Rochester staff members also served as instructors and were joined by librarians from five other institutions: 

  • Boston College (BC)
  • University of California San Diego (UCSD)
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC)
  • University of Minnesota (UM)
  • Ohio State University (OSU)


What was covered?

In addition to an introduction to digital scholarship and a keynote, students attended a total of six morning and afternoon learning sessions:

  • Geospatial and Temporal Mapping; Teachers: Joshua Sadvari, OSU; Blair Tinker, UR
  • Information Visualization; Teachers: Eileen Daly-Boas, UR; Megan Ozeran, UIUC 

“A lot more products involve mapping. I have no mapping background whatsoever. And so just being able to do the basics, especially since I work at a reference desk that involves like mapping questions, makes what I do easier.”
—Natalia Estrada, reference and collections assistant, University of California Berkley

  • Text Mining with HathiTrust Research Center; Teachers: Erin Glass, UCSD; Dan Tracy, UIUC
  • Scholarly Editions: Text Encoding and Publishing with Text Encoding Initiative;Teachers: Leigh Bonds, OSU; Anna Kijas, BC

“Now, I will feel more comfortable when I'm in consultation with a faculty member or a researcher. I can look at the things they want to do and say 'These are the tools that might help you get there.'"
—Stacy Snyder, digital scholarship librarian, University at Buffalo

  • Archives & Exhibitions with Omeka; Teachers: Stefan Enabli, UCSD; Sarah Melton, BC
  • Multimodal Online Publishing with Scalar; Teachers: Emily Sherwood, UR; Kristen Totleben, UR

 “This was my first time attending the Digital Scholarship Institute. I was continually impressed by the scope and depth of the presenters’ knowledge and, since many were former DSI attendees themselves, am energized in developing my expertise.”
—Stephanie Barrett, interdisciplinary social sciences librarian, University of Rochester

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