Keeping the “L” in Digital: Applying LIS Core Competencies to Digital Humanities Work

Kaetrena Davis Kendrick
Medford Library, University of South Carolina Lancaster.

Digital Humanities (DH) has struggled with an identity since its contemporary emergence in the early 2000s; however, a succinct definition exists, placing many core activities of the field squarely in the domain of modern librarianship. This article briefly reviews American Library Association’s Core Competencies for Librarianship and summarizes the continuing development and characteristics of DH projects. The author also reveals how LIS competencies have been applied to a Korean popular culture DH project at Elon University.  Positive implications for DH’s impact on professional development for librarians, information literacy integration, and opportunities for librarian/faculty or community collaborations are also included.

Librarianship has undergone a great deal of change in a short amount of time, and these changes are driven from inside and outside of the academy. In the academy, scholars push the boundaries of rigorous inquiry and knowledge creation; and, outside of it, informal researchers demand access to lay and privileged information. In both cases, librarians have recognized the impact of these changes and continued to adapt their skill sets accordingly.  Historically, librarianship focused on the fundamental aspects of acquiring, organizing, tracking, and protecting resources; however, modern librarianship also includes instruction, outreach, programming, technological innovation, and active participation in scholarly communication via publishing or content creation (Kendrick, 2011; Shupe & Pung, 2011). Library and Information Science (LIS) literature also documents changes in roles and duties for catalogers (Buttlar and Garcha, 1998) and special librarians (Braude, 1997; Belniak, 2009). Even as historical changes are documented, concurrent literature discusses how the field will continue to evolve, and there is constant speculation on what kinds of knowledge, skills, and abilities future LIS professionals will need to acquire in order to successfully practice and promulgate ethics and values of the profession (Kajberg, 1997; Braun, 2002; Partridge, Menzies, Lee, & Munro, 2010).

Digital Humanities (DH) has also experienced constant and unrelenting growing pains, especially in the last few years. During its evolution from Humanities Computing and more recent appearance in academic research methodologies and disciplines, practitioners have both struggled to define the field (“How do you define,” n.d.) and questioned the need for a definition (Heppler 2013). In a Chronicle of Higher Education essay, Pannapacker takes a postmodern approach, arguing that DH should be defined (as a set of methodologies) and renamed:

Stop calling it “digital humanities.” Or worse, “DH,” with a knowing air. The backlash against the field has already arrived. The DH’ers have always known that their work is interdisciplinary (or metadisciplinary), but many academics who are not humanists think they’re excluded from it….it seems more inclusive to call it digital liberal arts (DLA) with the assumption that we’ll lose the “digital” within a few years, once practices that seem innovative today become the ordinary methods of scholarship. (2013, para 6, 7)

Despite these concerns, accumulating literature defines the history, practices and theories of DH (Schriebman, Siemens & Unsworth 2004; Burdick, Drucker, Lunenfeld, Presner, & Schnapp, 2012; Gold, 2012). Furthermore, Brett Bobley — Chief Information Officer of the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH) and Director of the Office of the Digital Humanities (ODH) — has provided a broad but telling definition of the term:

I use “digital humanities” as an umbrella term for a number of different activities that surround technology and humanities scholarship.  Under the digital humanities rubric, I would include topics like open access to materials, intellectual property rights, tool development, digital libraries, data mining, born-digital preservation, multimedia publication, visualization, GIS, digital reconstruction, study of the impact of technology on numerous fields, technology for teaching and learning, sustainability models, media studies, and many others.” (2012, p. 61).

Many librarians who read Bobley’s rubric may recognize that most of these activities accurately describe their own job descriptions, professional concerns, and activities. In addition to a brief discussion of ALA’s Core Competencies and the modern development of DH, this article will reveal how I have applied basic and advanced LIS skills to a scholarly Korean popular culture DH project. The article will conclude with outcomes and long-term implications for librarians who choose to identify and lend their skill sets to DH projects.

LIS Core Competencies

The central professional body for librarians in the United States – the American Library Association (ALA) – has been concerned with prescribing the theoretical knowledge and practical skill sets for library professionals who work in a wide variety of environments for massively diverse clienteles. In 1999, ALA created a Core Competencies Task Force that was charged with responding to the 1st Congress on Professional Education’s recommendations to “identify the core competencies for the profession” and “describe the competencies of the generalist of the future” (“All Concerned ALA Members and Groups,” 2008). Working with various groups and other ALA divisions, the evolving work group (known now as the Library Education Task Force) submitted ALA Core Competencies of Librarianship to the ALA Executive Board in 2008. The policy was approved and adopted by the ALA Council in 2009.

The ALA Core Competencies of Librarianship includes eight broad areas of fundamental knowledge, skills, and abilities that all LIS professionals should possess after completing an ALA-accredited graduate LIS program. Each broad area includes a listing of concepts that the professional should be able to employ when appropriate:

  1. Foundations of the profession (11 concepts)
  2. Information resources (4 concepts)
  3. Organization of recorded knowledge and information (3 concepts)
  4. Technological knowledge and skills (4 concepts)
  5. Reference and user services (7 concepts)
  6. Research (3 concepts)
  7. Continuing education and lifelong learning (4 concepts)
  8. Administration and management (5 concepts)

Almost all of the broad areas of LIS competencies are highly applicable to the DH field; however neither DH nor LIS practitioners recognize the competencies as activities that are related to DH. A brief review of the continuing development of DH reveals disconnections with LIS and highlights the similarities between the two fields.

Development and Characteristics of DH

Development of DH

Schriebman, Siemans, and Unsworth’s A Companion to Digital Humanities currently has the most complete historical review of the field before it was known as DH, and I encourage readers to consult that text for an in-depth understanding of the history of the field. In short, DH is the current name for the field of Humanities Computing, which has its own beginning in the late 1940s when Italian Jesuit priest, Father Roberto Busa, began to make an index verborum of St. Thomas Aquinas’ and related authors’ works – a project that inherently required indexing, cataloging, and metadata organization skills. The priest enlisted the help of IBM, which eventually transferred the texts to punched cards and wrote a concordance program for the project. The texts were published beginning in 1974.  The thirty years it took to create these volumes is attributed to Busa’s insistence that his work be visualized based on his high standards of scholarship. With the advent of the World Wide Web, Busa recognized the impact that the combination of multimedia and analysis tools would have on society (Schreibman, Siemens, & Unsworth, 2004).

Outside of the controversies focused on defining the field, current DH development focuses on several areas: creating tools that help scholars and lay-people from a variety of educational disciplines and backgrounds create, visualize, or present large data or collections; determining who gets use and benefit from tool development and the output of DH projects; reconciling and promoting the emerging and established practices into traditional models of academic scholarship; and defining a DH project.

Characteristics of DH Projects

Despite ongoing starts and stops in the progress of DH, those in the field have moved forward in designing, funding, developing, supporting, implementing, and promoting projects. Due to this progress, core characteristics of DH projects have emerged. Generally, DH projects should be:

  • collaborative and non-hierarchal,
  • grounded in theory and critique,
  • knowledge-based,
  • experimental,
  • multimodal, and
  • open access.

(Pitti, 2004; Jӧttkandt, 2008, Liu, 2009; Kirschenbaum, 2010; Honn & Morse, 2013)

The DH project I currently work with exhibits all of these characteristics, which in part are manifested via my LIS skills and the leadership and expert or lay subject knowledge of my colleagues and associates with the project.

A Cultural Studies Digital Humanities Project: Kpop Kollective

Kpop Kollective (KPK) is a scholarly collaborative DH initiative that collects, organizes, and offers open access to information about Korean popular culture. The Institutional Review Board (IRB) approved initiative includes various projects and houses original scholarly writing about the international growth and development of Korean popular music and television (K-drama). In particular, KPK focuses on Kpop fans and their activities, responses to, and impact on the creation, production, and spread of Hallyu (Korean wave) outside of Asia.  KPK was founded in January 2011 in Burlington, North Carolina by Elon University Associate Professor Dr. Crystal S. Anderson and Elon University students Michelle Brew Baxter and Kuylain Howard. The organization was created as an outlet for the group “to study, seriously discuss, write about, and collect information on Hallyu (Korean wave) popular culture…for people around the world.” (Kpop Kollective n.d.). I joined KPK in May 2011 as a Research Associate and was later promoted to Senior Fellow for Instruction Design and Information Management. From May 2011 – August 2012, KPK recruited and trained Research Assistants from all over the United States, offering them opportunities to acquire new technology skills, learn how to perform basic and advanced research, and improve writing skills in an online environment.

KPK distributes basic and detailed Hallyu-related information via a WordPress-based Web-site ( Anderson and I also provide updates on KPK projects, contribute scholarly essays, and announce any scholarly activities on the KPK blog. Currently, KPK projects include three major studies (iFans: Mapping Kpop’s International Fandom, The Korean Popular Music International Fanbases Study, and The Korean Drama International Audiences Fanbases Study) and two digital exhibits (iFans and Hallyu Harmony) headed by Anderson. KPK also has several ongoing curation, collection, and archiving projects shared by KPK members (KPOPIANA, Information Archive) or headed by me (Digital Documentation and video archiving).

LIS Competencies and KPK Projects

As noted earlier, many LIS core competencies are easily mapped to Bobley’s definition of DH, and many of these competencies have been applied to locate, organize, present, and disseminate information about Hallyu via KPK projects.

Digital Archiving and Documentation

KPK projects focus on Hallyu activities from the early 1990s to the present, and we locate the majority of our information from various places on the Internet. When we first began collecting items, we quickly realized several things:  1) earlier information was sometimes difficult to verify; 2) information was often piecemeal, and especially 3) difficult to relocate. The Library of Congress estimates that information for the web only exists online for about 44 days (n.d.), so we identified several tools that would allow us to preserve news items, websites, and video footage we found on the Internet. We also identified platforms and created best practices for curation and the holistic presentation of the information we locate. Bobley describes archiving and documentation activities using the terms “born-digital preservation,” “data-mining,” “digital mining,” and “visualization.” (2012, p.61) ALA’s Core Competencies for these activities are covered under 2B, 2D, 3B, 3C, and 4D (2009).

KPK Information Archive

KPK’s Information Archive is a response to our need to collect and organize Hallyu-related news clips and documents from disparate URLs. The archive is housed in Evernote, a set of services that is designed for note-taking and archiving. Users can save “notes” to their account and assign tags to them for easy access later. Notes can be websites, URL links, documents, photos, and more. Evernote offers free and paid versions of its service, and we currently use the free version, which offers a monthly usage limit of 60MB and a total note capacity of 100,000 notes (as of this writing we have 841 notes in our archive). This tool is especially helpful for KPK since any notes saved to our archive stay intact, even if the original source of the note disappears from the Internet.

When I joined the project, KPK members had already added items to the Information Archive; however, the notes were tagged in a homogenous fashion (e.g., Korean music, Korean producers, Korean culture). One of my first projects to streamline the Information Archive was to create a folksonomy so all KPK members could easily locate information about the various topics and people associated with Korean popular culture. A folksonomy is created when tags (pieces of metadata) are categorized based on how users interact with a resource or tool and within a social media environment (Vander Wal, 2006). In a true folksonomy, any added tags would be accepted and permanently added to the infrastructure unless the individual user(s) changed or deleted certain metadata. At KPK, I created and implemented a modified folksonomy (Kendrick 2012): tagging guidelines were created and implemented to ensure that notes adhere to KPK’s scholarly mission and to account for multiple user contributions to the archive. Notes are periodically reviewed to ensure that tagging guidelines are being followed. Evernote also has an instant search function that locates current tags while new tags are being created. Using this function along with KPK’s summarized tag list, so maintaining integrity of the metadata is less challenging.

Digital Documentation

The KPK Digital Documentation project is a serendipitous solution to a common Internet problem. In 2011, KPK founders Anderson and Baxter were having trouble accessing official entertainment company websites due to extremely slow page load times and eventual website timeout errors. I was not having trouble accessing the sites, so I began recording all of the pages in the websites so Anderson and Baxter could review them.

In the Hallyu entertainment industry, many singers have a new website for each album they release, and production timelines are more compressed than in the American music business model. A group or solo artist often releases a combination of singles, mini-albums, albums, and repackaged albums – all with different promotion concepts and accompanying websites – within one year. This production timeline doubles (and sometimes triples) if the artists promote music in other countries like Japan, Taiwan, or China, or if they are also actors in pan-Asian film or television industries. Unfortunately, once a promotion is done or if a company decides to completely redesign its web presence, many websites (or portions of those sites) may no longer be accessible. Additionally, website design has changed over the years, particularly when it comes to Kpop fan interaction strategies. For the KPK Digital Documentation project, I use Screencast-O-Matic, a free screen-recording and video hosting site, to systematically record (or, digitally preserve) Hallyu-related websites for posterity.  With these recordings, KPK will be better able to track and compare how entertainment companies utilize the Internet, implement website design, and leverage social media networks to disclose business practices, attract interest from new talent, promote their current artists, and connect with local, regional, and international fan communities. Fans also are able to access these short recordings in our online artist exhibits.

Artist Profiles and KPOPIANA

As with all fan communities, there are both seasoned fans and new fans. For both groups, information is a vital currency that helps to solidify membership or denote power within the fandom. Fiske notes:

[I]n fandom…the accumulation of knowledge is fundamental to the accumulation of cultural capital …fan knowledge helps to distinguish a particular fan community (those who possess it) from others (those who don’t)…It also serves to distinguish within the fan community. The experts – those who have accumulated the most knowledge – gain prestige within the group and act as opinion leaders. Knowledge, like money, is always a source of power. (1992, pp. 41-42)

With Kpop artists increasingly performing to increasingly well-attended concerts in the United States and Europe (Caramanica, 2011; Kleinman, 2012) and the explosive popularity of the “Gangnam Style” singer/rapper PSY, (Guinness World Record News 2012), international Kpop fans’ need to locate and distribute information to other community members has increased. This process can be challenging considering the inherent language barrier.  Most Korean programs and news originate in Korean or are printed in Hangul – the script for Korean phonics. These programs or news items are then translated or interpreted into English (sometimes by official news outlets, other times by fans). Originally, the KPK Artist Profiles project was created to give Kpop fans a common English-language access point to basic information about Kpop artists.

The artist profiles included a listing of debut dates, full discographies, embedded music videos, and a description of the group’s fan club and fan culture. The profiles were created and published in WordPress until spring 2012, when, an online exhibit website publishing platform, was applied to the artist profile project (Artist Profiles are being moved to Omeka). Omeka’s functionality allows KPK members to curate information found across the Web and attach metadata to individual objects. In Omeka, the KPK collection of artist exhibits is named KPOPIANA ( Rather than lists of information, KPOPIANA exhibits include objective and approachable narratives about the career trajectory, fan culture, musical development, and visual history (music videos) of Kpop artists. Omeka also enhances how visitors to the artist exhibits interact with information since tags associated within exhibits allow visitors to discover more information within KPOPIANA.

Scholarly Communication

The growth, development, and impact of Korean popular culture in Asia has been studied since the early 2000s; however, Hallyu Studies, which analyzes these issues on an international scale, remains an emerging field of research. Another primary goal of KPK is to offer a collegial space for Hallyu Studies scholars to interact with each other and locate relevant scholarly information. As a digital humanities initiative, KPK also acknowledges the knowledge currency of Kpop fans by inviting them to participate in building our projects. In this way, KPK acts upon another hallmark of DH by recognizing the value of a myriad of contributors from a variety of educational backgrounds.  Bobley uses descriptors like “humanities scholarship,” “multimedia publication,” “open access to materials,” and “digital mining” to these kinds of activities. (2012, p. 61), and ALA’s Core Competencies for these activities are covered under 2A, 5B, and 6C (2009).

Scholarly Communication Network

KPK’s website offers readers access to original scholarly writing about Hallyu-related topics and the development of DH as it applies to KPK projects. In one essay, Anderson notes the important intersection of DH’s open-access tenet and blogging for her work as a tenure-track professor:

Isn’t the ultimate goal of research to contribute to a body of knowledge that people can access? So, I decided that I would I write and publish small pieces of my research on my blog to share directly with the public: no paywalls, no passwords, no undecipherable [sic] jargon… I get to decide how others can use it through a Creative Commons license. If somebody asks me to translate a post in French, I can say yes because I exercise a measure of control over my own writing that I don’t always do in peer-reviewed publications. (2012, para. 10)

Since the blog is connected to other social media like Facebook and Twitter (KPK also has a presence in those environments), KPK’s scholarship is disseminated directly to interested communities, and we can track how far that reach goes via WordPress analytics.  Moreover, interaction with KPK’s scholarly content is encouraged – comments are responded to within one business day, bringing relevance and immediacy to discourse within the topics that impact Hallyu Studies.

We also augment our scholarly networks via, a scholarly social network that allows academics to share their scholarship, locate other scholars in their field or areas of interest, and gauge the international reach of their work. By searching for various disciplines and topics, we have been able to identify scholars in our field(s), create writing and research collaborations, and add their works to our body of knowledge.

Research and Information Clearinghouse

Hallyu Studies is interdisciplinary, including scholarship from media studies, communications, international business, economics, political science, second language acquisition, ethnomusicology, and popular culture. Since 2011, I have been collocating this scholarship, which I began sharing on KPK’s website in August 2012 in a series of posts titled “For Your Reading Pleasure: A Hallyu Bibliography.” In my introduction to the series, I share how I discover bibliographic information:

I use a variety of tools to locate items, including but not limited to: Internet search engines, proprietary databases, public and global online library catalogs, institutional repositories, open access journals, and digital libraries. I also use a myriad of searching methods, including BOOLEAN operators, truncation, phrase searching, and more.  Often, I also gather information the old-fashioned way: via word-of-mouth or I ask colleagues in my professional network to send me items they think are applicable. (2012, para.2)

Bibliographic entries are listed by format or by subject. When applicable, direct links to the scholarship are offered. Where items are not immediately accessible, I remind readers about common services that are offered at most academic and public libraries: Interlibrary Loan (ILL), database access, and personalized research assistance.

Experience vs. Formal Education

The importance of locating and participating in a community of scholars cannot be emphasized enough, regardless of the subject area; however, tapping into all ways and means of knowledge is even more important when the subject is not widely known. KPK members also self-identify as Kpop fans, and to that end, we offer not only our solid formal education backgrounds, but our practical knowledge of Kpop history and development as we create our projects. Where one person may lack historical information about the legendary group Shinwha or rapper Seo Taiji, they make up for it with a running narrative and up-to-the minute trivia about contemporary groups like SHINee or solo artist Bi (Rain).

This kind of lay information resulting from direct participation as a fan community member is just as valid as understanding rules of classification or applying the rigor of qualitative data analysis. Burdick, Drucker, Lunenfeld, Presner, and Schnapp discuss the importance of informal learning in DH by asserting its benefits for institutions of informal learning and memory, stating that 1) “participatory models of content production, research, and curatorship” should “ bring together professionals and citizens in team-based projects that interpret the cultural patrimony as a public good” and 2) highlight “augmented approaches to…informal education that promise to expand traditional library and museum audiences and bring scholarship into public view.” (2012, pp. 47-48)

We extend ongoing opportunities for Kpop fans to participate in KPK work, and the benefits we gain as we leverage Kpop fans’ knowledge currency is returned to them as they learn skills they may otherwise never have an opportunity to discover or apply. Additionally, Kpop fans who build working relationships with KPK often share information about their KPK experiences with their communities.  In turn, they distribute the iterative results of our projects to audiences that we may not be able to access as quickly without these opinion leaders’ involvement.

Undergraduate Teaching and Learning

Two of KPK’s three founders were undergraduate students, and as KPK’s projects were developed, so were the basic competencies they would need to demonstrate to complete required work. From computer skills and writing to basic coding and research skills, all KPK members had to undergo basic training, and continuing education was especially important as our projects moved away from informal writing, collection, and preservation functions to scholarly communication, archiving, and information curation. In addition to increasing our students’ comfort working behind-the-scenes with technology, Anderson and I have identified, introduced, and applied several of the tools we use for KPK work into our respective classrooms.  Bobley uses the terms “technology for teaching and learning,” “intellectual property rights,” “tool development” to describe these activities (2012, p. 61). They are covered in ALA Core Competencies under 1G, 4B, 4D 7C, and 7D (2009).

Technology training

Our training program was developed in 2011, and by 2012, formal Research Assistant recruitment opportunities were extended to interested candidates via an application process on the KPK website. Many applicants were high school students, undergraduate college students, or recent college graduates who identified as Kpop fans. After a successful application review process, candidates participated in a four week training program that included research skills assessment and training, basic HTML instruction (for WordPress Artist Profiles), Evernote training (for Information Archive contributions), and later, Omeka metadata entry/cataloging instruction (for KPOPIANA exhibits).

Because most of our candidates were not local (our closest candidate lived in Georgia and the farthest candidates lived in California), trainings were provided remotely through the use of tutorials and practice exercises in each technology environment. Tutorials were created using Prezi and Screencast-O-Matic and were accessed via Screencast-O-Matic’s hosting service or KPK’s YouTube channel.  In addition to overcoming distance barriers, e-training proved very helpful for KPK since candidates could access training materials when their schedules allowed, as long as they met training assignment deadlines. Different learning styles were taken into consideration, so written technical guidelines for all trainings topics were also created. The guidelines were uploaded and hosted on KPK’s wiki, which is hosted on Wikispaces (, a free education-based wiki provider. KPK’s wiki is also used to keep up with training deadlines and ongoing project management. After successfully completing the month-long training, candidates were invited to become Research Assistants. Becoming a Research Assistant came with the duties of creating Artist Profiles on a weekly basis, completing writing assignments, adding news items to the Information Archive, and eventually, cataloging items and writing content for KPOPIANA exhibits.

Information literacy (IL) instruction

The work of KPK inherently includes opportunities for IL standards to be introduced and applied. In addition to learning how to search for information by using basic and advanced search strategies, KPK members are also required to verify information by finding at least three sources and appropriately crediting all information used in KPK projects, regardless of the original format.

Tools used in KPK work immediately illustrate the relevancy of obtaining, improving, and applying IL skills to any information need. When contributing information to the Information Archive, we ask Research Assistants to utilize Evernote’s annotation function to briefly evaluate the note and justify why it should be added.  In Omeka, we created, formatted and now utilize a “description” field so all items include original links to files that we use in our online exhibits. In the spirit of understanding the importance of accountability for work in scholarly collaborative environments, Research Assistants are required to create personal WordPress accounts so they can receive a byline for any writing they provide to KPK’s blog, and all blog posts are protected by Creative Commons licensing. We also include a cataloging credit statement in all Omeka items, and we require each KPK member to have their own Wikispaces account so we can track who is making changes in the KPK wiki.

After their training and upon continuing their regular work with KPK, Research Assistants quickly recognized the long-term benefits of understanding and applying IL skills to KPK work and for their personal growth. A high-school Research Assistant mentioned, “I learned how to…navigate the vast universe of the internet and find exactly what I need. I will definitely benefit from these skills in the future…With the ever-growing market of information-seeking and internet productivity, these skills are a must” (B. Estensen, personal communication, September 9, 2011). Another recent college graduate noted, “Computer literacy will always improve a candidate’s chances of landing a job…KPK requires that its members become knowledgeable about credibility issues on the Net. This skillset will surely be beneficial in the future” (M. Byon, personal communication, September 9, 2011).

Professional Development and Faculty Collaboration

The benefits of working with KPK are not limited to our Research Assistants. As an academic librarian who practices DH, I am constantly engaged in professional development and I have discovered other paths to creating stronger academic relationships with faculty and students. Adams and Gunn agree that the increasing impact of DH activities the LIS field affords academic librarians opportunities for continuing education, external collaborations, and institutional change (2013).

Attending conferences like THATCamp and independently locating and learning other DH tools allows me to augment how I contribute to KPK projects. Moreover, I am also able to enhance reference interactions, improve IL instruction, and expand library outreach initiatives using DH tools. The iterative and experimental nature of DH projects is well-documented in the literature (and earlier in this article). Relationship building, continuing education, and teaching are also noted in ALA Core Competencies under 1J, 5C, 5E, 7A, 7D, and 8D.

Faculty collaboration

Many academic librarians who are concerned with integrating IL across the curriculum have discussed their experiences with apathy, resistance, or confusion from school administration and teaching faculty (Durisin, 2002; Godwin, 2005; Saunders, 2013). Since becoming engaged with DH work, I have found that discussions about helpful tools and technologies in the classroom often organically lead to productive conversations about IL, critical thinking, and information presentation and ethics. Even more important is the door these organic conversations open towards librarian-teaching faculty collaborations.

During the early spring of 2012, Dr. Dana Lawrence, a USC Lancaster faculty member, approached me for collaboration with her upper level English course (Shakespeare in Italy). The course was connected to USC Lancaster’s Travel Study program in which the students would be traveling to Venice, Florence, and Rome, Italy. Lawrence wanted to create a travel-related assignment, but she did not want to use a blog because of its linear orientation.  She was looking for a tool that would allow each student to show off their unique travel experience in a way that combined two modes of information representation: writing and photos. I introduced Lawrence to Omeka and gave her a tour of KPOPIANA, showing her how the exhibits worked. I also created a dummy site for her so she could see how her class’ exhibits could be represented. After some discussion, she decided that the students would curate their travel experiences using Omeka. We named the exhibit Ciao Lancaster! (  Students were required to take photos of art, architecture, places associated with the Shakespeare plays they were studying, food they tried, and important events they experienced during their trip (Habeus papam!). They also were asked to write short narrative pieces about each of these areas. The rubric required students to research and provide accurate credits to art and architecture. The students turned in their metadata, and I created the exhibits about a week after we returned from our trip.  Often, I collaborated with the students to clarify their photo choices, verify facts about art pieces, and Italian culture norms, and assist with editing their writing for online environments. In addition to Ciao Lancaster’s fundamentally educative role, USC Lancaster administration may use the exhibits to promote the school’s Travel Study program. Moreover, USC Lancaster’s Native American Studies Center is now also considering using Omeka to host digital collections of Catawba historical documents, photographs, and pottery.

Library instruction and outreach

As mentioned earlier, many DH tools can be applied to help students engage in behaviors that demonstrate and meet IL Performance Standards and outcomes, with the additional boons of increasing computer, media, and digital literacies (see Table 1). Helping students locate, access, organize, evaluate, and present information is another area where DH tools are useful, and these tools have enhanced my basic reference interactions and in-depth research consultations, with excellent feedback from students and teaching faculty. I have also used visualization tools to market library programs or present customer service feedback to the campus community, which has resulted in increased interest in librarians from campus divisions like Student Life, who for the first time included Medford Library in an active role during the Summer 2013 Freshman Orientation sessions. In the sessions, USCL librarians introduced freshman to technology tools and applications (e.g., Evernote, BibMe) that can help them as they learn to navigate the research process in their new college environment. The University Admissions Office has also taken note of and tapped into the librarians’ expertise – when the office decided they wanted to update their campus tour videos and registration tutorials and offer webchat services, they asked me to demonstrate how Screencast-O-Matic works and they sought the librarians’ counsel on implementing ZohoChat.


The DH field has experienced tumultuous development as it has worked its way into the traditional work and scholarship processes of academia.  Although fraught with issues ranging from defining what it is to determining who can practice the discipline, it is still clear that many core functions of DH fall directly under the purview of modern librarianship. A quick review of LIS conference programs and LISTSERV discussion threads reveal library professionals have ongoing concerns about activities surrounding open access, scholarly communication, digital preservation, and professional development. As LIS evolved to include outreach and instruction, many professionals quickly identified and shared fundamental methods or practical uses for tools and technologies that aid in information organization, instruction, and improved library services. Many of these tools (or the methods that allows these tools to work) either originate from DH or have been appropriated from LIS for DH use.

It is not clear if my LIS Skills have improved and my commitment to academic librarianship has deepened due to my work with KPK or regardless of it; however, I agree passionately with respondents to the National Endowment for the Humanities Office of Digital Humanities Start-Up Grants survey. The participants noted links between discipline credibility, job satisfaction, and DH work:

Quite a few [respondents] emphasized how useful [DH work/funds] were in establishing some form of credibility or legitimacy in their fields…Others cited improvements to job satisfaction…promotion and tenure…and opportunities for future research and long-term career trajectories (2010, p. 28).

My work with KPK has exponentially enhanced my professional skills by offering me opportunities to fulfill almost every ALA core competency. The tools I have discussed in this article are only a few of many that I use for KPK projects or at my library (see Table 2 for a full listing). Working on and promoting DH projects means that eventually it will be less likely I will have to discuss at length the question, “what do [librarians] do?” Now, I can just show my colleagues, teaching faculty, and students the answer to that question by using the skill sets they latently know I possess. Furthermore, I can demonstrate the skills in a way these groups hope I will display them but rarely ask me to demonstrate (and are still shocked when I do). In the end, the “L” in digital stands for us: Librarians.


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Table 1 – DH Tools and Information Literacy Standards

Tool Information Literacy Standard(s)
Dropbox 1, 2 4
Evernote 1, 3
Google Drive 1, 4
JS Timeline 3, 4, 5
Mindomo 1, 2, 3
Omeka 1, 2, 4, 5
PicMonkey 4
Piktochart 1, 3, 4, 5
Prezi 4
Savevid 1, 3, 4, 5
Screencast-O-Matic 3, 4, 5! 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Text2MindMap 1, 3, 4
Wordle 1, 4
WordPress 3, 4
Zotero 1, 2, 3, 4, 5


Table 2 – Listing of all tools used in KPK Projects with Identified ALA Core Competencies

Tool KPK Projects & Activities ALA Core Competencies Scholarly Communication networks 2A, 5B, 6B, 6C Information dissemination 5A
AnyMeeting Training, online collaboration 1J, 5C, 7A, 7C, 7D, 8B, 8D
Evernote Information Archive 2B, 2C, 2D, 3A, 3B, 3C
GIMP Marketing, photography 4D
GoogleDocs Artist Profiles/KPOPIANA Content 1J, 2D
Join.Me Training, online collaboration 1J, 5C, 7A, 7C, 7D, 8D
Mindomo Consultation, information distribution 5A, 5B, 5C, 5E, 8D
Omeka KPOPIANA, iFans, Hallyu Harmony 2D, 5B, 5C
Piktochart Data visualization 2A, 4B, 4D, 5A, 5B, 5D
Prezi Training, Scholarly Presentations 1J, 4D, 5A, 5C, 5E, 8B, 8D
Savevid Video archiving 2B, 2C, 2D, 3A, 3B, 3C
Screencast-O-Matic Training, Digital Documentation 2B, 2C, 2D, 3A, 3B, 3C Media studies, critique and analysis 1D, 4A, 6B, 6C
Survey Monkey All surveys 4D, 6A
Wikispaces Training, project management, idea formation 1J, 5C, 6C, 7A, 7C, 7D
WordPress Research blogging, Artist Profiles 1J, 2D, 5B, 5C, 8D
Twitter Information dissemination 1J, 5A, 8D
YouTube Video hosting, organization, archiving 2B, 2C, 2D, 3A, 3B, 3C, 4D
Zotero Annotated bibliography 1J, 6B, 6C, 5A, 5B,   5C, 8D

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