Digital Humanities Pedagogy in the University of Washington Information School MLIS Program

poster / demo / art installation
  1. 1. Helene C. Williams

    University of Washington

Work text
This plain text was ingested for the purpose of full-text search, not to preserve original formatting or readability. For the most complete copy, refer to the original conference program.

Digital Humanities Librarianship is a 3-credit elective open to University of Washington Masters of Library and Information Science students and a core elective in the Graduate Certificate in Textual and Digital Studies program. The course focuses on creating full contributors in the DH realm: a plethora (in academic terms, at least) of job postings for DH or Digital Scholarship librarians shows rapid growth in this area and a need for well-prepared individuals. No matter the physical location of DH centers—from libraries to academic departments to research centers—DH librarians are ideally suited for navigating the intellectual and geographic spaces of ideas, resources, and tools.

In addition to its unique hybrid format (synchronous residential and online), the course is also notable for providing a balanced approach to the theory vs. application tension typical of MLIS programs. Most DH courses in LIS departments focus on technologies, without concomitant attention to a foundational understanding of the varied research methods and resource usage patterns of humanities scholars. The DH Librarianship course aims to provide students with an understanding of how humanities scholars work, both traditionally and digitally, as well as familiarity with resources and tools used in digital humanities scholarship. The course also covers political and practical issues: what roles do librarians play in DH research, and what roles are situationally appropriate—tech guru, data cleaner, resource purchaser, equal collaborator? During the quarter, the course tackles questions of sustainability, accessibility, ethics, and equity in representation. Guest speakers include DH librarians (both with and sans MLIS), new DH faculty in various disciplines, and seasoned humanities researchers.

Assignments include disciplinary exploration, which allows students to explore resources and DH projects in philosophy, religion, fine and performing arts, languages and literatures. Student groups examine DH tools that range from timelines and mapping to text mining, information visualization, data cleaning, and network analysis, and create presentations from a shared corpus. In the final “DH consultation” assignment, students locate a project—in-process, abandoned, or “complete”—and propose options for library-based support, based on a disciplinary needs assessment. They also provide suggestions for strengthening the content, usefulness, or reach of the project, as well as a tools/usability assessment, which may include creating a prototype of an improved project.

The pedagogy reflects the multi-faceted disciplinary grounding and technological approach of the course content. My experience as an academic humanities librarian is bolstered by the research of many, including Melissa Terras, who discusses the need to identify core values and “hidden histories” of disciplines (2006), and Marcia Bates, who defines distinctions between disciplines such as the humanities and meta-disciplines like LIS (1999). In LIS we analyze the processes and domains of disciplines—in this case those involved in DH—and how those are represented, accessed, and given meaning across the corpora of recorded information. Mike Caulfield's writing (2016) on multiple digital literacies also resonates with the pedagogies used, demonstrating the need for domain-grounded literacy to help students ascertain next steps and appropriate tools in their work with humanities scholars and projects.

The hybrid format of the class contributes to the collaborative pedagogy: local online and residential students attend the technology-enabled classroom in person, and others attend via the online Zoom classroom. Students can participate via audio or text, share screens, display presentations, or work in groups. Cameras in the classroom broadcast what is happening locally, and those attending online enable their webcams to be more fully present. In addition, several students each week attend via Kubi robots, which are iPads on movable stands that online users rotate to focus on different classroom activities. Guest speakers may attend in person, or they may present and engage with students via online options. These diverse modes of learning increase the students' comfort with multiple technologies, which they are then more likely to use in their own research and teaching.

Learning outcomes include familiarity with the structure of knowledge in the humanities disciplines as well as the wide array of resources that provide ref-

erence and bibliographic support for research. Students are able to connect issues and concepts in DH to ongoing projects and scholarship, and they are able to articulate the ways in which library support fits into a changing paradigm of research in the humanities disciplines. In addition, students understand issues concerning equity, representation, and emotional labor in conjunction with digital humanities librarianship.

This poster will highlight the multiple teaching and learning techniques used in the course and student projects. It will also showcase the physical and virtual teaching and learning spaces.


Bates, M. J. (1999). “The Invisible Substrate of

Information Science.” Journal of the American Society for

Information Science, 50(12): 1043-50.

Caulfield, M. (2016). “Yes, Digital Literacy. But Which

One?” Hapgood. December 19. Retrieved from


Terras, M. (2006). "Disciplined: Using Educational

Studies to Analyse ‘Humanities Computing'." Literary and Linguistic Computing, 21: 229-46.

If this content appears in violation of your intellectual property rights, or you see errors or omissions, please reach out to Scott B. Weingart to discuss removing or amending the materials.