Convergence of digital humanities and digital libraries

Ying Zhang, Shu Liu, Emilee Mathews

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose – Digital humanities (DH) has become a much discussed topic among both humanities scholars and library professionals. The library and information science (LIS) community has taken efforts in providing new facilities and developing new services to meet humanities scholars’ changing research behaviors and needs employing digital tools and methods. How to effectively collaborate with the DH community has been a challenging task to LIS in their digital library (DL) development endeavors. The purpose of this paper is to discover productive ways for LIS to support DH scholarship, specifically, what DL components, including content, technology, and service, should and could be developed for digital humanists. Design/methodology/approach – As an initial effort of the Digital Humanities Interest Group at University of California, Irvine Libraries, the examination is primarily based on a cross-boundary environmental scan in both DH and DL fields. The environmental survey includes both a literature review and web and physical site visits. The survey results, especially a gap analysis between the behaviors and needs of humanities scholars and the digital content, technologies, and services currently offered by the DL community, are used to shape the proposed roles of DH librarianship. Findings – First, DH’s innovative approach to research and teaching practices brings opportunities and challenges. Second, DH research is collaborative work. Third, major channels are established for the DH community. Fourth, various tools and data sets are developed to support different types of projects. Fifth, DH community has unbalanced geographical and disciplinary distribution. Sixth, DH research output still lacks attention, integration, and sustainability. Finally, LIS professionals play unique roles in DH projects. Overall, the communities of DH and DL share common goals and tasks. Practical implications – This paper proposes these present and future roles of LIS professionals: creator and contributor; curator; messenger and liaison; educator; mediator and interpreter; host; partner; innovator; “hybrid scholar”; advocate; consultant. At the organizational level, libraries should demonstrate higher efficiency and effectiveness in the services by revamping organizational culture or structure to stimulate and realize more and deeper cross-boundary conversations and collaborations. On a larger scale, the DL community should strive to become more visible, valuable, and approachable to the DH community; and even better, become part of it. Originality/value – This paper examines both DH and DL fields critically and connects the two communities by discovering gaps and commonalities. Based on the findings, the authors recommend roles and actions to be taken by LIS professionals, libraries, and the DL community. This paper is valuable to both humanities scholars who are seeking support in their research using digital methods and LIS professionals who are interested in providing more effective and suitable services. The paper also helps library administrators and aspiring librarians better understand the concept of DH and grasp insight on the present and future of DH librarianship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)362-377
Number of pages16
JournalLibrary Management
Issue number4-5
StatePublished - Jun 8 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Digital curation
  • Digital humanities
  • Digital libraries
  • Faculty-librarian collaboration
  • Scholarly communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Library and Information Sciences


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