for librarians, researchers and educators interested in information management
Despite healthy enrolments, the perception that the humanities have been undergoing a ‘crisis’ is well founded. Government and private support for the humanities is in decline even though the humanities are highly valued by society. It is evident that there is a strong need for humanities advocacy and public engagement to advance humanities research. The academic library can both contribute to, and learn from, this process.
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to think about these ideas while attending the recent two-day meeting of the Australasian Consortium of Humanities Research Centres (ACHRC), held at UWA, Perth. Alan Liu, Professor and Chair of English, University of California, Santa Barbara gave the keynote address in which he discussed “Values, Strategies and Technologies for Humanities Advocacy in the Digital Age”
Liu is one of the coordinators of the 4Humanities website, which acts as both platform and resource – as a platform by enabling humanities advocates to engage with the public and as a resource by providing tools, methods, best practices, expertise and news. Some of the interesting projects created by 4Humanities include:
According to Liu, humanities advocacy needs to be thinking and planning structurally for the long-term. It needs to be both global and local, and inclusive about what counts as belonging to ‘the humanities’. Importantly, it is about engaging the public, and requires designing media campaigns that use a large range of spokespeople, media channels, and forms/ genres of communication. There is a large range of ICT tools that can be used to advocate for the humanities.
Humanities research centres can play an important role in humanities advocacy by:
1. creating state of the art physical and digital infrastructure for engagement between humanities centres and cultural institutions
2. creating incubation programs and spaces for humanities projects and courses with a digital component
3. creating innovative hybrid digital/ face to face events bridging the academy and the public
4. providing digital development, publishing, curation, intellectual property, and funding services for the humanities
Liu also argued that humanities research centres can take the lead in bringing together:
1. the academic library and other academic agencies to think through the long term logic of humanities publishing, collection curation, and reader access services
2. humanities researchers, instructors, and students to think about the evolving nature of intellectual property, research ethics, and accessibility / disability
3. administrators, faculty, ‘alt-ac’ staff, and graduate students to think through changes in humanities hiring/ promotion, protocols to accommodate digital work, collaboration, bibliometrics and ‘altmetrics’
Naturally, I found myself considering the role of the academic library in public engagement – not only in the humanities context but also more broadly.
Clearly, the academic library has an important contribution to make to humanities advocacy. It can create partnerships with humanities research centres by offering expertise in data management, research impact measurement, collection / curation and knowledge of copyright issues and intellectual property rights.
The academic library can also learn from the developments in humanities advocacy and create projects that are designed to engage with the community (both the wider university community and the general public). In this way, it can communicate about what it is doing, and demonstrate its value and benefit to the community.
Indeed, if the humanities can invest significantly and successfully to create impact, then so too can the academic library.