Harvard College Library News: News from around the libraries

Libraries Take Part in Digital Humanities Fair

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Music Reference and Research Librarian Liza Vick talks with a student about the libraries' digital resources during the annual Digital Humanities Fair.


December 10, 2010 – Digital resources have transformed the face of scholarship, blurring the once bright lines between disciplines, and allowing scholars across the globe to draw on materials from half a world away as easily as materials located in their local library. Harvard’s libraries offer an array of digital services to deliver information to students and faculty, as well as tools to help them contextualize that information, ranging from virtual collections to scanned excerpts of books and journals delivered via email. To ensure library users know about the tools at their disposal, staff from across Harvard libraries last week took part in the Digital Humanities Fair held at the Barker Center.

“What’s unique about this event this year is that it’s bringing disciplines like the humanities and social sciences together,” said Michael Hemment, Head of Research and Learning Technology for Harvard College Library. “Using the libraries’ resources, students and faculty are able to draw on materials from both areas, allowing them to paint a fuller, richer picture with their research.”

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To demonstrate how the libraries’ vast digital resources can be combined, a video was screened that uses a variety of media, including video, still images, audio, maps and geographic information system data to explore the impact of the Cape Wind project. Library staff used iPads to demonstrate the Scan and Deliver and Ask a Librarian virtual reference services.

The fair also afforded library staff the chance to highlight the ways in which digital resources are used in the classroom. Displays featured digital materials created to support the Gen Ed course on Modernism taught by Ernest Bernbaum Professor of Literature Dan Albright, as well as the libraries’ ability to digitize materials for classroom use. Digital discovery tools, including mobile applications for searching the library catalog, and Online Resources for Music Scholars, the recently-launched annotated bibliography of music resources, was featured.

“Student’s perception of libraries has changed dramatically over the past 15 to 20 years,” said Jan Ziolkowksi, director of the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection and Arthur Kingsley Porter Professor of Medieval Latin. “The idea of the quiet librarian who shushes you has been dispelled completely, and has been replaced with a much more dynamic figure. Librarians are not gatekeepers who throw up hurdles to access, but guides into the marvelous, unknown treasures of the collection.”

In addition to changing the way patrons think about the libraries, the availability of digital tools has fundamentally altered the way users access library materials, Ziolkowski said.

“In past years, Dumbarton Oaks fellows would be lined up at the end of the term to photocopy materials they needed,” he said. “The same was true with scanners. But now, fellows can just order everything they need virtually using Scan and Deliver.”

Staff from Widener, Fine Arts, Loeb Music, Houghton, Harvard-Yenching, Fung, Law School, Baker and Schlesinger libraries; and HCL units Services for Academic Programs, Reference Services and Learning Technology, HCL Information Technology Services and Maps, Media, Data and Government Information; and the Office for Information Systems and Harvard University Archives took part in the event.