Blog Post

University of Iowa, Interview Series on the Digital Humanities Part II: Collaborating with Libraries

In the second part of our series on digital humanities at the University of Iowa, Peter Likarish and Bridget Draxler interview four UI faculty on how to create successful collaborative projects between libraries and humanities departments in a digital age.  Interviewees include James Elmborg, Associate Professor in the School of Library and Information Science, Nicole Saylor, Director of the Digital Library Services department, Jon Winet, Associate Professor of Intermedia and New Media in the department of Art and Art History, and Ed Folsom, Professor of English and Director of the Walt Whitman Archive.

In the first half of our roundtable podcast discussion, our participants consider what digital humanities projects are and what they can and should do.  We discuss the collaborative potential of digital projects, the easy crossover to public scholarship, and the problem with the title “digital humanities.”  In addition, interviewees emphasize the role of writing in their work, and describe the potential for digital humanities work at a school that is famous for its Writers Workshop and in a town that has been named a UNESCO City of Literature.

In the second half of our conversation, we discuss the challenges and sources of disconnect in collaborative projects that include humanities scholars, librarians, and information technology services. We consider some of the specializations, objectives, and assumptions that can conflict in interdisciplinary initiatives.  Panelists describe ways that these projects can not only cross departmental boundaries, but also boundaries between academic and public knowledge.

Please listen to our MP3 podcast here:



It's good to see Iowa being well represented on HASTAC! Your post on collaborations between librarians and professors caught my interest because of a collaboratory effort I was part of last year at Iowa State University. Working both with the Parks Library and Live Green! Initiative (campus-wide sustainability initiative), and with the support of library faculty member, Sarah Passonneau, I created a sustainability themed research guide intended to broaden the campus and local community's definition of "sustainability" and provide sound resources for students of any discipline to begin research on sustainable processes within anything from agriculture to IT.

In reaction to what I've listened to of the podcasts you've posted, I can share the benefits of our project. The collaboration between the library and sustainability program directly contributed to greater access to platforms of exposure (though the guide is housed on the library website, it will also be cross-referenced by the Live Green Initiative homepage, which is often a prominent link on the University's homepage). The goal is that a guide like this can fill a need in the university classroom, but will also move the university into the broader public, as one of your panelists suggested as a possibility.

The collection of research guides that the library houses appeals to student academic needs across disciplines and departments. Essentially, students have at their fingertips the expertise of subject librarians and faculty members directing them to the foundational research questions, databases, and scholarship for countless subjects. I think the ease in which students will move in and out of the various subjects will, as practice of interest - not mandate, support an organic move toward interdisciplinarity. Libraries can function as the hub of these types of collaborations and reinvigorate their own identities as centers of accessibility and scholarship.



Thanks so much for your post!  What a fabulous project--thanks so much for sharing.  I think one of the really important intersection points here is that the idea of what a library is has changed and is continuing to change.  I'd love to hear more from you or others about how these changes in libraries impact our teaching, research, or daily life, how scholars might best take advantage of these changes, and where you think libraries might be headed in the future.  Can you tell us a bit more about how different teachers at Iowa State have used this research guide or others in their classrooms?