Session 2 — If I Build It Will They Come?

Thursday 14:00 - 15:30

High Tor 3

Chair: Michael Pidd

“If I Can’t Find It, I Can’t Use It.” Some Practical Solutions to Ensure Your Digital Resources Are Easy to Discover

  • Paola Marchionni


This presentation will discuss the results of a recent study into the discoverability of digitised collections, Spotlight on the Digital, which was carried out by Jisc in partnership with RLUK (Research Libraries UK) and SCONUL (Society of Colleges, National and University Libraries) during June 2013-Jan 2014.

The project emerged out of the concern that digitised collections are not as easy for users to find as they could be, which inhibits their potential for use by researchers, teachers and learners and limits the impact that collections can have on education and research.

Spotlight sought to:

  1. assess challenges to the discoverability of digitised collections

  2. identify practical solutions that will improve discoverability

The study drew on a number of sources of evidence in an intensive period of research between Jul-Dec 2013. These included the engagement of an Expert group of library managers, curators and academics as ‘critical friends’; a literature review on user discovery behaviours; a web-based assessment of over 200 collections that were digitised over the last 15 years; focus groups; and a library online survey.

Among the key findings of the study was that a number of digitised “collections” become “lost to the web over time (about 20% of the sample examined) and that about 50% of digitised “items” are not discoverable through a Google search by either item name or title.

This is worrying, not only from the point of view of the human and financial resources that have gone into the creation of such resources, but above all because, if they are not be found, they become unavailable to researchers, students and other potential interested parties. This is a particularly pressing issue within the digital humanities, as a lot of digitisation activity in the last decades has taken place in the areas of arts and humanities.

The presentation will also showcase a “nuts and bolts” good practice guide that the project produced, Make your digital resources easier to discover, which contains practical advice on a range of things that can be done to improve discoverability. It will also discuss suggestions for above-campus solutions that could support creators and managers of digital resources, such as a variety of tools and services.

The paper aligns in particular with the conference theme on “best practice and case studies for data creation… sustainability and accessibility”.

The Medieval Electronic Scholarly Alliance (MESA) as a Resource for Medieval Studies Communities

  • Dot Porter

University of Pennsylvania

The Medieval Electronic Scholarly Alliance (MESA) is a federated international community of scholars, project, institutions, and organizations engaged in digital scholarship within the field of medieval studies. Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and aligned with the Advanced Research Consortium (ARC), MESA seeks both to provide a community for those engaged in digital medieval studies and to meet emerging needs of this community, including making recommendations on technological and scholarly standards for electronic scholarship, the aggregation of data, and the ability to discover and repurpose this data. MESA launched in July 2013, and can be found at

MESA enables a cross-search of digital objects from a variety of different types of institutions and projects, including scholarly editions, museums, libraries, and other virtual collections of medieval materials. In doing this, MESA has the potential to enable new work across the various disciplines and genres of medieval studies (including but not limited to literature, history, art history, and archaeology), providing scholars with methods for discovering new materials relevant to their research.

This presentation will focus on the discovery aspect of MESA, and how it seeks to serve the non-digital medievalist who may nevertheless be interested in finding and using digital resources. Starting with a history of medievalists and their interactions with digital technology as told through three data sets (the International Congress on Medieval Studies (first held in 1962), (a digital project database in the UK, sponsored by JISC and the Arts & Humanities Research Council), and two surveys, from 2002 and 2011, that looked specifically at medievalists' use of digital resources), I will draw out some potential issues that this history has for the current developers of digital resources for medievalists, and investigate how MESA might serve to address these issues.

Libraries, Data, and DH: Creating and Operationalizing a Library Unit to Meet the Collaborative Needs of Scholars

  • Michael Rodriguez

Michigan State University

This paper is one part literature review on libraries and DH, and one part case study. Michigan State University Libraries built the Digital Scholar Collaborative to best collaborate and serve scholars after examining several existing models for DH units in other libraries and at other institutions. We believe the “DSC” creates a nimble academic library unit to meet the needs of the nascent fields of data (collection and curation) and text services (digital humanities) while simultaneously managing the risk inherent in growing new library services and collections. Modeled in part from other academic libraries the DSC was built by aligning existing units and services under the umbrella of a collaborative partnership rather than engaging the bureaucratic process of a sizable reorganization. Join us for a talk on how this unit was built, for whom it was built, and toward what ends are its goals. The six divisions of the DSC (Data Services, Digital Text Services, Digital Curation, Digitized Library Collections, Scholars Repository, and Open Access/Scholarly Communications) bridge several Library units in order to give a shared structure of support for intra-library collaboration, and especially to work with university researchers on a range of projects, including the securing grant of funding, advice and assist in data planning, textual digitization, and in the manipulation of existing digital resources and collections. This paper will show how this unit was made, what its models were, and how it expects to go forward in these exciting new areas of library collections and services within the context of DH.