Demonstrating expertise in digital scholarship

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It’s a conundrum. Digital scholarship can readily be defined by the use of technology to support the access, retrieval and application of knowledge – but that’s only a fraction of the story.

In our latest book of edited chapters we try to get under the skin of what digital scholarship really means for academic library services – and it’s far from being about the technology. In fact the technology is, in many instances, the least interesting aspect of what we discovered.

Nonsensical, revolutionary

If I was asked to describe what digital scholarship means, I might perhaps echo Clifford Lynch and agree that on one level it is nonsensical; but it is also a characteristic of the environment in which many of us work today; it may also be revolutionary. As Alison Hicks points out ‘digital scholarship must be understood as going beyond the adoption of new research methods to engage more deeply with personal habits as well as ideas of outreach, engagement and education’. Many of the scholars who actively embrace these principles will want to participate in networked environments but the tension that arises between networked openness, and research which is often based on conservative value and reward systems, place many scholars in an unenviable position – how far to share? What tools should they use?

Is the librarian able to provide a critical gaze over these scenarios, the use of new technologies and practices and provide an informed view, contribute to the conversation and re-assure?

Digital is the new norm

One of our case studies focuses on the Disruptive Media Learning Lab at Coventry University UK, now home to a team of librarians; it examines how they are adapting to this new environment, retaining their identity and forming new partnerships. This, and other examples demonstrate how you, as professional librarians, are successfully adapting, innovating and generally navigating your way through these disruptive changes. That is one reason to be cheerful and optimistic and it is also a recognition that, cliché aside, digital is the new norm.

The challenge, and one which is explored throughout the book is how are the many facets of the scholarly environment impacting on academic libraries? If we accept that all scholarship is by default digital how are academic librarians responding?  We suggest that the answers come in many shapes and forms – the link between digital scholarship and workflow redesign is explored from an Australian perspective; the development of digital scholarship centres in North America forms an in depth case study and,across all countries represented, new partnerships, roles and initiatives are discussed and provide sources for inspiration and adoption. Specifically we draw from the literature on career coaching and identify the professional and personal qualities that characterise your successes.

  • Stability – holding onto the core values that imbue our professional lives with purpose and meaning
  • Flexibility – being able to accept and flow with change
  • Stretch – being willing to move out of your comfort zone and leave behind legacy practices

These findings are refreshingly positive – librarians are being bold and as they emerge as robustly digitally resilient, their future feels positively secure.

About Developing Digtial Scholarship

Developing Digital Scholarship: Emerging practices in academic libraries, edited by Alison Mackenzie and Lindsey Martin, spans a wide range of contrasting perspectives, contexts, insights and case studies, which explore the relationships between digital scholarship, contemporary academic libraries and professional practice. 


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