Partners in Research. Outside the Library, Inside the Infrastructure


Sally Chambers, Saskia Scheltjens

Slides available at SlideShare

More than ever before, libraries are having to prove their value to guarantee their existence. However, even from within the library community there is an increasing awareness that librarians should not sustain relics of service of a bygone age, but rethink their (digital) service provision (Koster, 2013).

For several decades, libraries have been rising to the challenge of ‘becoming digital’.  However, increasingly scholarship is also ‘going digital’ (Borgman, 2009). This rise of ‘digital scholarship’ presents a unique opportunity for libraries to show their value and improve their relevance (Calhoun, 2012; Chambers, 2012; Scheltjens, 2012).

With this context in mind, our presentation will explore the role that libraries could play in digital scholarship.  We will particularly focus on the (digital) service provision for humanities research, where the library has always, and in our belief should continue, to play as essential role.

We will build on the ideas such as those contained in the recently published (February 2013) issue Journal of Library Administration – Digital Humanities in the Library: New Models for Engagement.  Key themes will include open licences, open access and open knowledge; the importance of librarians becoming (equal) partners in digital (humanities) research projects (e.g. the development of digital scholarly editions, virtual research environments, linking research data and publications etc.), forging new cooperations with faculty via international research infrastructures, undertaking research data management and active participation in developing new models of scholarly publication.

To illustrate these ideas, we will use practical examples of the roles that libraries have already started to play in the digital research arena. At European level, we will look at the recently EU-funded project, Europeana Cloud: Unlocking Europe’s Research via The Cloud which brings together researchers from the humanities (via DARIAH, the Digital Research Infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities) and the social sciences (via CESSDA, the Council of European Social Sciences Data Archives) to explore how the content available in Europeana and The European Library can be further developed to better meet the needs of Europeana humanities and social sciences researchers.

At present the involvement of research libraries in research infrastructures has been low (Lossau, 2012).  However, increasingly libraries are starting to play a more active role in digital research infrastructures such asDARIAH. We will use specific case studies of libraries already actively involved in DARIAH (such as the State and University Library in Göttingen) and institutions that are about to embark on this kind of cooperation (such as Ghent University, KULeuven and Antwerp University together with their respective libraries).  In this way, we can move towards realising DARIAH’s vision for the ultimate ‘library-scholar collaboration’ (Romary, 2013) in order to develop a ‘general charter of good practices for libraries and (digital humanities) research projects’.


Sally Chambers works for DARIAH, the Digital Research Infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities based in the Göttingen Centre for Digital Humanities, Germany. Before joining DARIAH, Sally worked for The European Library focusing on interoperability, metadata and technical project coordination. Sally has been working in libraries since the mid-1990’s primarily in digital service provision. Sally is convinced that libraries have a key role to play in digital scholarship and is dedicated to understanding this role and encouraging libraries to rise to the challenge.

Saskia Scheltjens is a faculty librarian at Ghent University, Belgium. She’s busy setting up a brand new faculty library for Arts & Philosophy where she tries to develop a place that is in tune with 21st century information needs of students and researchers. She is co-founder of the Ghent Centre for Digital Humanities and co-organises the first THATCamp in Belgium. Before Ghent, Saskia worked and lived in Amsterdam where she worked as library coordinator for the Rijksmuseum. She is interested in ‘all things in between’, like digital humanities, and doesn’t believe anymore in the dichotomy between analog and digital, even when it involves libraries.


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