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Meta-Module #1: What Is Digital Scholarship (and How Are Libraries Supporting It)?

This “meta-module” introduces the broad range of activities that comprise digital scholarship and some of the ways that academic libraries have engaged with and supported digital scholarship over the past few decades.

Estimated Completion Time = 4 hours


  • Increased understanding of different types of digital work across disciplines
  • Increased understanding of how academic libraries can support digital scholarship


The phrase “digital scholarship” is used to describe a variety of activities performed by teachers, learners, and scholars across many disciplines. In contrast to “traditional” scholarship, which communicates the results of scholarly activities in a static form, whether through electronic or printed media, digital scholarship “creates and conveys through rich, layered, linked, and interactive engagements that are only possible in the digital realm.”1 Those who work in digital scholarship emphasize that it is as much about the process of creating new forms of scholarship using digital tools and computational methods as it is about the products resulting from scholarly activities like research and teaching.2 3

In practice, digital scholarship can be defined in as many ways as there are researchers creating or using digital tools for research, teaching, and scholarly communication. The website offers a different definition of digital humanities - a closely related area - every time you refresh the page. While digital scholarship projects and activities can take numerous forms, they are generally collaborative in nature and require some combination of digital tools or techniques to solve a research or pedagogical problem.

This module brings together readings, activities, questions for reflection, and additional resources in order to give an overview of both digital scholarship practices in multiple fields as well as the transformation of library services, spaces, and staffing in support of digital scholarship over the past few decades. The emphasis is on how scholars are using digital media and computational methods to analyze, create, and communicate in innovative ways, as well as what libraries are doing to support digital work.

1 Dietrich, Craig, and Ashley Sanders. July 26, 2016. "On the Word, Digital." dh+lib 2016 Special Issue.
2 Alexander, Brian, and Rebecca Frost Davis. 2016. "Should Liberal Arts Campuses Do Digital Humanities? Process and Products in the Small College World." Debates in the Digital Humanities 2016, edited by Matthew Gold and Lauren Klein. University of Minnesota Press.
3 Coble, Zach, Sarah Potvin, and Roxanne Shirazi. 2014. "Process as Product: Scholarly Communication Experiments in the Digital Humanities." Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication 2 (3): eP1137.


  • Complete SSRC Module 1: Introduction to Digital Scholarship and Digital Projects

  • Additional Readings

  • Skim the SSRC Glossary for unfamiliar terms

  • Select and evaluate 2 or 3 Digital Scholarship Support Profiles, published by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) in 2016-2017

    • Explore the current web presence for each profile
    • Read the full report for each profile
    • Consider the following questions for each profile:
      • When was this digital scholarship center or library unit established, and does its web presence discuss the history of digital scholarship support at this library or institution prior to (or since) its establishment?
      • What kinds of support for digital scholarship are available at this library?
      • How does this center or unit articulate its mission and values?
      • Which disciplines, academic units, or communities does this center or unit support, and what kinds of projects has it created, supported, or partnered on?
  • "Meta" Questions to Consider

    • What activities and models for digital scholarship work are already taking place in your library or on your campus?
    • What kinds of benefits have you seen (or would you anticipate) from offering support to stakeholders at your institution for their digitally inflected research, teaching, or publishing activities?
    • How might the research and educational support services in your library incorporate or partner with services or activities related to digital scholarship, or in what ways is this work being done to bridge silos at your institution?
  • Short Reflection

    • Take a few minutes and try to articulate what you will take away from the readings, activities, and resources covered in this module. What is one concept that you feel you now understand better? One topic that was completely new to you? One question you would like to explore further?

Additional Resources

Selected library research guides on Digital Scholarship and Digital Humanities:

Selected blogs, websites, and professional forums for Digital Scholarship:

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