Depending on who you are talking to, libraries are either on the decline or ushering in a new golden age of information. But predictions like these are nothing new. Articles that predict the death or the flourishing future of the library are nearly as old as libraries themselves. As hyperbolic as these conversations sometimes are, they are also quite persistent.
A little over a year ago, Digital Initiatives Librarian, Anna Neatrour, had the idea to take a look at the genre as a whole. She tweeted out:
To which, Digital Matters Librarian, Rebekah Cummings, responded:
Additional expertise was needed, so we looped in post-doctoral fellow, Elizabeth Callaway for topic modeling expertise.
As a result of this fortuitous online exchange, the three of us embarked on a one-year project where we built a corpus of library-themed literature on the future or death of the library, identified common topics in this genre via topic modeling, and engaged in close reading to better understand how people have made predications on the future of the library over the past few decades. Our research led to some interesting insights on both the method of topic modeling and the resilience of libraries to adapt and change.
Another benefit to this project was that we were able to learn digital humanities by actually doing digital humanities. When we started this project, we were considering how we could better support researchers looking to engage in digital humanities projects. Muddling through the technology, metadata, and copyright issues common to DH work, gave us a better understanding of the process and positioned us to better assist researchers in the new Digital Matters.
If you want to learn more about our project, download our new article Kindles, card catalogs, and the future of libraries: a collaborative digital humanities project, and let us know what you think!
Rebekah, Lizzie, and Anna
Anna L. Neatrour, Elizabeth Callaway, Rebekah Cummings, (2018) “Kindles, card catalogs, and the future of libraries: a collaborative digital humanities project”, Digital Library Perspectives, https://doi.org/10.1108/DLP-02-2018-0004
Digital Matters Librarian