Joan A. Smith
Chief Technology Strategist
Director of Libraries
With the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, a team from Emory University’s Woodruff Library spent the past year planning the development of a Digital Scholarship Commons. The ultimate goal is the creation of a transdisciplinary, collaborative digital scholarship center that is truly of the library, not simply in the library. Numerous existing models of digital scholarship centers were explored, the relevant literature was reviewed, an advisory board composed of experts in digital scholarship was convened, and extensive conversations with faculty members, graduate students, and librarians were conducted. The goal was to discover what makes a digital humanities program vibrant, interdisciplinary, and financially sustainable; to determine how scholars from all disciplines can be brought into the library; to explore a hybrid organizational model for sustaining DiSC; to explore new ways of leveraging the library’s collections; and to devise a plan to build librarians’ skills so that they keep pace with the evolving research needs of the twenty-first century scholar.
Investigators were led to five noted centers of digital scholarship in the United States: Duke University’s Visual Studies Initiative (VSI); the University of Maryland’s Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH); the Scholar’s Lab (VSI) at the University of Virginia; George Mason University’s Center for History and New Media (CHNM); and the University of Nebraska’s Center for Digital Research in the Humanities (CDRH). These institutions gave the team an opportunity to see digital scholarship in action, to get a “feel” for the impact of physical space on similar projects, and to better understand the issues that face these institutions once the realities of long-term budget and management arise.
The result of this preliminary phase is the creation of a new physical space called the Digital Scholarship Commons and nicknamed the DiSC. Housed in the main University Library building, it is shared conceptually and operationally with faculty, researchers, and Emory at large. The new DiSC space is being designed to facilitate scholarly collaboration, to take advantage of the resources and expertise available in the library, and to attract scholars from across the disciplines. Hopefully it will provide insight for other institutions seeking to build their own transdisciplinary, library-based centers for digital scholarship.