Digital Humanities at Illinois Needs Assessment Working Group



March – October 2016

Sample Task List

  • Review data and analysis of interviews conducted by Green and Dickson for the Digital Humanities Needs Assessment study
  • Assist in drafting a survey protocol
  • Review data and analysis from survey protocol
  • Draft executive summary of findings
  • Assist in development of work plan for DH @ Illinois initiatives and activities


A recent survey tallied over ninety research centers and initiatives around the world that support digital humanities (DH) research, and the majority are associated with university campuses. But despite the rapidly growing number of DH initiatives at institutions of higher education around the U.S. and world, few have conducted formal needs assessments on their campuses to ascertain the needs of researchers and other stakeholders. In order to improve present and future support of digital humanities research at the University of Illinois, this study titled “Supporting Digital Humanities Research at UIUC: A Needs Assessment of Scholars,“ will conduct a focused digital humanities needs assessment to determine what tools, resources, and support are needed.

The study will consist of two parts: Harriett Green and Eleanor Dickson will conduct approximately fifteen interviews in spring 2016 with faculty, academic professionals, and graduate students about their work and interest in digital scholarship. From the analysis of the interviews, a survey protocol will be developed to be launched in fall 2016.

The outcomes of this study will address Target 1 in the Library Framework for Strategic Action, as it will enable the University Library to advance our services and support for innovative scholarship and investigation. This study is significant because it is the first digital humanities needs assessment performed at UIUC, and aims to expand the ways in which the Library can engage with researchers as they pursue cutting edge research in humanistic inquiry.

There are three objectives for this study:

1)    Identify the tools and resources most needed by Illinois researchers:

The first objective of this study is to learn what tools and resources—such as software packages, web based services, datasets, expert personnel, and computer hardware—are needed by scholars. The achievement of this objective will give the University Library a better understanding of the value that its tools and resources have, and where it can expand its services. For example, should the stakeholders express interest in co-citation analysis, topic modeling, or corpus linguistics, it may be valuable for the University Library to consider facilitating access to more datasets of text corpora.

2)    Identify the major barriers that exist for scholars and potential solutions:

A second objective of this study is to learn what barriers exist for scholars in their efforts to use tools and resources. As this objective pertains to tools, the University Library would like to know which tools are in highest demand and which tools require the most support to learn to use. As this objective pertains to resources, the University Library would like to know what barriers exist to use of data, such as data formatting, permissions, or on site access requirements. Achieving this objective will allow the University Library to better plan tool and resource oriented instruction and research support in addition to ensuring that resources are provided in such a way that they are amenable to digital humanities analysis.

3)    Determine the role of digital scholarship in both research and teaching:

A final objective of the study is to understand how campus stakeholders became involved in digital humanities research, the value of this research in their disciplines, and how stakeholders understand the relationship between digital humanities and pedagogy. With an understanding of how scholars integrate their digital humanities work into their research agendas and teaching, the University Library can begin to build and expand its research services and resources to support scholars’ digital humanities work in a more holistic fashion that takes into account all aspects of library services.

We recognize that  Illinois has a rich legacy of innovative research in digital scholarship: the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities (IPRH) has funded digital humanities postdoctoral fellows and supported faculty research initiatives over its 20+ year existence; the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) and the Institute for Computing in the Humanities, Arts, and Social Science (I-CHASS) have supported a number of research collaborations over the past few decades that integrate interdisciplinary digital humanities research; and the University Library supports digital humanities through personnel such as the English and Digital Humanities Librarian, Digital Humanities Specialist, and the Scholarly Commons. But on a campus as big and diverse as Illinois, there are faculty and students pursuing digital scholarship in a multiplicity of approaches and outlets. And as digital humanities continues to expand and evolves as an area of interdisciplinary investigation, the needs and aspirations of researchers will only grow in this area.

Therefore it is crucial that the University Library support digital scholarship research, and this needs assessment will position the Library to build the most effective support structures within its means.


The Digital Humanities at Illinois Needs Assessment Working Group will plan and implement pre- and post-tasks for the Digital Humanities Needs Assessment study interviews and survey.  The advisory group will reach out to the campus community when needed and coordinate efforts designed to gather the most diverse responses possible to the assessment interviews and survey. The advisory group will plan post-study tasks following the administration of the Digital Humanities Needs Assessment interviews and survey. After the interview and survey periods, the working group will produce an executive summary, as well as other library-wide reports or presentations, in consultation with the three AULs related to matters of User Services, Collections and Technical Services, and Research. The AUL for Research will serve as the primary point of contact for the group.


  • Harriett Green, Chair(Mar 2016 - No End Of Term Date Available)
    English and Digital Humanities Librarian
  • Eleanor Dickson(Mar 2016 - No End Of Term Date Available)
    Visiting HathiTrust Research Center Digital Humanities Specialist
  • Melanie Emerson(Mar 2016 - No End Of Term Date Available)
    Head, Ricker Architecture and Art Library
  • Sarah Christensen(Mar 2016 - No End Of Term Date Available)
    Visual Resources Specialist
  • Daniel Tracy(Mar 2016 - No End Of Term Date Available)
    Visiting Library and Information Science and Research Support Services Librarian
  • JoAnn Jacoby(Mar 2016 - No End Of Term Date Available)
    Associate University Librarian for User Services