Paige Morgan

The Expansion & Development of DH/DS Librarians

My colleague Helene Williams (University of Washington iSchool) and I have been working on this project for a few months now, and since we’re presenting on it at DLF, we wanted to share a tiny piece of that presentation.

We’re both really interested in the professional work done by digital humanities and digital scholarship librarians — and similar positions, i.e., library-based DH/DS coordinators, etc. — everyone whose position is library-based, public-facing, and primarily focused on supporting DH/DS. We come at this from different perspectives: as an iSchool instructor teaching MLIS students, Helene is interested in helping them prepare for the job market effectively, and understanding what the market for these positions looks like. I’m currently *in* a DH Librarian job — but I remember when I was in my CLIR postdoc, looking at DH Librarian job ads, and feeling as though I wasn’t qualified for most of them, based on the skills and qualifications that the job ads listed. We both want to know more about what DH & DS librarians do — the visible work that can be easily described on a job ad — and the more invisible work that’s often harder to articulate in words.

We want to emphasize, though, that we’re not doing this project in order to determine precisely what skills and competencies the ideal DH/DS librarian has; or to create some sort of list of the minimal competencies they should have. Digital humanities is an incredibly-varied field, and the last thing we want is to homogenize it. Instead, we intend this project to explore what Stacie Williams described in her DLF Forum keynote as “radical labor: work that we respect because of its values, and work that respects us in turn.”

We’ve assembled a primary corpus* of 84 position descriptions from between 2010 and 2016**. One part of my analysis of these ads involved developing a list of skills, and using AntConc to search the corpus to see when and where those skills had been mentioned in connection with particular jobs. I took those results, and visualized them in Tableau. Technical competencies with distinct names (XML, CSS) are easiest to search for — but AntConc allows you to add a list of terms, so the results for “data management” include hits for alternate phrases like “managing data,” etc. I also included key areas of knowledge, such as scholarly communication, and copyright/rights management. The current version of this visualization lists everything in alphabetical order; because it’s interesting to see them grouped together and contrasted with each other. I want to state very clearly that in assembling this visualization, I am not suggesting that being a DH/DS librarian is all about technical competencies, and the tools you can use. Tool competencies have often played an oversized role in discussions of who gets to be a digital scholar. But I do think that in order to move beyond just talking about tool competencies, we need to see more clearly how we’re talking about them (and using them) now.

You can adjust this visualization by sorting to see what area was most requested in a single year; or sort any particular skill to see which year it was most requested (or least requested) in. If you hover over the marks for each skill in each year, you can see keyword-in-context (KWiC) snippets from AntConc, along with the position title and location. Just mouse over/tap to interact, and reset if necessary.

Tableau Public tends to glitch if you put over 1,000 lines in it (and the current spreadsheet has 1257), so if you want to see the full version of the raw data (which includes data for “network analysis,” “open source,” and “open access,”) that’s here, as a Google Sheet. If you’d like to suggest a particular skill or competency that we ought to include, feel free to get in touch.)

* We do absolutely plan to share our full corpus of data openly in the future, closer to when we publish our research.

** These are positions that were advertised externally, though we’re hoping to assemble another segment of the corpus that will focus on job descriptions that were created and hired internally, i.e., when an English subject liaison librarian position is changed into a DH librarian position.

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