Modeling Approaches to Library-led DH Pedagogy

Academic libraries have long supported, collaborated on, and led digital humanities (DH) research. Evidence of engagement can be found in acquisition and preparation of objects of inquiry amenable to computational analysis, tool development, and data and platform management and preservation. While investment in these activities varies, recent entrants and long established institutional participants share in common a commitment to delivery of library-led DH instruction. Library-led DH instruction expands the breadth and depth of DH research capacity on campus and provides a space in which to spread awareness of data and services that can drive DH research forward. Despite widespread provision by librarians, there exists little critical engagement with the pedagogical challenges librarians face in designing and delivering DH instruction.

As librarians do not typically lead credit-bearing courses, the modes of instruction typically employed by librarians occur via one-shot instruction (e.g., disciplinary faculty requests workshop for class) or a workshop series wherein attempts to sequence content (e.g., data gathering workshop, data cleaning workshop, data visualization workshop) are necessarily loosely joined, given an audience that is not fixed by course enrollment and/or an institutional predilection for enabling target audiences to drop in and drop out of a sequence. Given format and audience constraints it becomes tempting to focus on tools at the cost of disciplinary relevance, let alone missing out on the pedagogical possibilities latent in tools rendered as vectors for enacting theories, methods, and ways of thinking about the world (Lincoln, 2014; Padilla, 2014; Vinopal, 2014).

Basic word frequency analysis of the Journal of Library Administration issue on digital humanities and the dh+lib response reveals that out of a corpus of more than 43,000 words, pedagogical terms are minimally represented: pedagogy (7), education (12), teaching (15), learn (20). While this might appear to indicate low commitment to pedagogy, the terms work (208), service (207), and support (135) all fall within the top 15 word frequencies ( Journal of Library Administration, 2013; Coble, 2013). 1 It is likely that pedagogical activities are contained within these more general terms, yet painting with such broad strokes does little to assist the librarian aiming to plan, implement, and deliver effective DH instruction. In order to take steps toward remedying this need, two digital humanities librarians, an information literacy librarian, and a data services librarian from Michigan State University applied for and received a DH Pedagogies Microgrant from the Association for Computers and the Humanities to explore development of a model for guiding design of a library-led DH pedagogy.

On 17 October 2014 the Library-Led DH Pedagogy: Modeling Paths Toward Information and Data Literacy symposium brought together disciplinary faculty and librarians from across the state of Michigan to discuss and test an approach to designing library-led DH pedagogy that draws on the draft Association of College and Research Libraries Framework for Information Literacy in Higher Education, the Data Information Literacy (DIL) program competencies, and disciplinary learning expectations (ACRL, 2014; Data Information Literacy, 2014; History Discipline Core, 2012). This approach encourages a move toward library-led DH instruction supported by updated information literacy concepts (interacting with the information ecosystem), leverages advances in data information literacy research (how to work with research data, e.g., metadata, data management, and data curation competencies), and increases relevancy through orientation to disciplinary learning expectations (how to interpret, analyze, and make sense in a manner befitting practice by a disciplinary community). The process of alignment was supported by presentations and discussions that brought the Framework and DIL Competencies into contact with disciplinary practice. This process was further supported by engaging disciplinary faculty and librarians in group-based activities. Each group designed learning outcomes and created model lesson plans predicated on a single or multidisciplinary audience. Mixed disciplinary faculty and librarian participation in project activities was by design, given a framing that assumes DH pedagogy is best understood as an interdisciplinary as well as interprofessional community of practice (Nowiskie, 2014).

This paper frames and describes the variety of attempts made to implement a pedagogical model for library-based DH instruction that aligns the draft Framework for Information Literacy in Higher Education, the Data Information Literacy program competencies, and disciplinary learning expectations. The model lesson plans produced over the course of the symposium are intended to help guide library development of DH instruction that optimally cultivates information and data literacies and, where appropriate, maintains disciplinary relevance (Carlson et al., 2011; Calzada Prado and Marzal, 2013). The paper concludes by discussing additional findings that surfaced during the course of the Library-Led DH symposium, such as the challenge of teaching to single vs. multidisciplinary audiences; advances an approach for designing DH pedagogy in a library context; and reflects upon the use of the library-led DH pedagogy model at Michigan State University during the spring 2015 semester.


1. Hirsch (2012) took a similar approach to indicate the paucity of DH pedagogy engagement in general.

Appendix A

  1. ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education Task Force. (2014). Draft Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, Part 1, 1 February, uploads/2014/02/Framework-for-IL-for-HE-Draft-1-Part-1.pdf.
  2. Calzada Prado, J. and Marzal, M. A. (2013). Incorporating Data Literacy into Information Literacy Programs: Core Competencies and Contents. Libri, 63(2) (January), doi:10.1515/libri-2013-0010.
  3. Carlson, J., Fosmire, M., Miller, C. and Nelson, M. S. (2011). Determining Data Information Literacy Needs: A Study of Students and Research Faculty. Purdue Libraries Faculty and Staff Scholarship and Research, 1 January, _fsdocs/23.
  4. Coble, Zach. (2013). Make It New? A Dh Lib Mini-Series—The Ebook. Dh Lib, 28 June,
  5. Data Information Literacy. (n.d.). (accessed 28 May 2014).
  6. Hirsch, B. (ed.). (2012). Digital Humanities Pedagogy: Practices, Principles, and Politics. Open Book Publishers, United Kingdom.
  7. History Discipline Core. (2012). A Statement from the AHA’s Tuning Project. October,
  8. Journal of Library Administration. (2013). 53(1), doi:10.1080/01930826.2013.756676.
  9. Lincoln, M. D. (2014). Tool Trouble: Thoughts Differences, 25 April,
  10. Nowiskie, B. (2014). Asking for It. 8 February,
  11. Padilla, T. (2014). Tooling: Paths toward Sparking Interest and Curiosity in DH, 27 April,
  12. Vinopal, J. (2014). Biases and Errors in Our Tools: How Do You Cope? Reflections of a Newcomer to Textual Analysis. 2 March, cope-reflections-of-a-newcomer-to-textual-analysis/.
Thomas George Padilla (, Michigan State University, United States of America and Bobby Smiley (, Michigan State University, United States of America and Sara Miller (, Michigan State University, United States of America and Hailey Mooney (, Michigan State University, United States of America