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Book Reviews

Developing Digital Scholarship: Emerging Practices in Academic Libraries. Alison Mackenzie and Lindsey Martin, eds. Chicago: ALA Neal Schuman, 2016. 184p. Paper, $70.00 (ISBN: 978-0-8389-1555-4). LC 2017289052.

Book cover for Developing Digital Scholarship: Emerging Practices in Academic Libraries

This work is a welcome addition to published research in the area of digital scholarship, boasting an international lens and the helpful integration of the theoretical with the practical. The editors, Alison Mackenzie and Lindsay Martin, both from Edge Hill University in England, bring to the work their ample leadership experience in the areas of e-learning and learning technology.

This book will be of greatest value to those in the academic library community with a focus in the area of digital scholarship. Those charged with leadership in this space will find inspiration from the authors, including strategies for repositioning the library as an expert partner as well as innovative suggestions for strategic expansion in a time of scant resources. All readers will welcome the generous integration of case studies illustrated with helpful visuals. Readers seeking specific counsel in the area of digital humanities will find only thematic parallels.

Organized into four parts, the book begins with a review of the landscape and a highly thoughtful and thorough literature review penned by Lindsay Martin. Not shying away from exploring contrasting definitions of scholarship with digital scholarship and examining digital scholarship as an ideology, Martin sets a framework for the chapter and a strong foundation for the book. Martin incorporates Ernest Boyle’s four categories of scholarship into her opening thoughts and cleverly concludes her chapter with a mapping of digital scholarship activity to Boyer’s framework. Offering numerous international examples, including many from the United States, this chapter is required reading for anyone venturing into or currently working in the field, as they will find arguments and precedents that will serve them well as they negotiate the landscape.

The following section of the book, The Agile Librarian, is organized into three chapters that explore how libraries and librarians might best position themselves to benefit from the potential inherent in digital scholarship. Howard and Fitzgibbons take an e-learning focus, which illustrates the value of partnerships for extending the role of the library with a case study from the University of Western Australia. Chapter 4 presents the outcomes of a survey administered to members of the Society of College, National, and University Libraries (SCONUL) in the UK. The survey focuses on exploring issues and opportunities pertaining to staff skill development in support of the digital needs of users. Charles Inskip finds that a comparatively high number of respondents report staff skills for supporting digital scholarship to be at a novice level. Inskip also finds a noticeable gap among respondents in their intent to prioritize projects and strategic approaches that would best upskill librarians in the digital realm. In light of these observations, Inskip warns that users may choose to turn away from libraries to meet their digital needs. The chapter that follows takes a different turn, discussing strategy for the realignment of staff resources within a quality enhancement framework. While this chapter would serve as a useful guide for strategic planning efforts, the reader is tasked with making her own connections between the information presented and the realm of digital scholarship.

Digital spaces and services set the theme for the third section of the book, which is most helpful in terms of informing planning and praxis. Chapter 6 stands out in particular and should be considered required reading for anyone planning a digital scholarship center. Most memorably, Tracy Bergstrom offers an insightful case study of the University of Notre Dame’s Center for Digital Scholarship. She shares how funding and staffing limitations can be mitigated by the creative and expansive thinking of center administration and staff. Continuing with the topic of emerging roles and services, David Clay’s chapter leverages a case study of the University of Salford to illustrate how libraries might realign staffing and resources in support of new models of engagement with scholars in the research process.

The final section of the book offers two chapters on communications and social networking; while chapter 8 feels like more of a topical stretch overall, Alison Hicks’ chapter succeeds with a course correction. Hicks argues for a rethinking of the formulation of workshops for scholars in the area of networked participation. In lieu of teaching technical features, she makes a compelling case for involving scholars in the critical assessment of comparable software tools. This allows workshops to focus on the needs of individuals by promoting informed decision making and empowering scholars to choose tools that best suit their needs.

Overall, the editors are successful in achieving their goal of exploring the “relationship between digital scholarship, contemporary academic libraries and professional practice” (xiii). This relationship, for the most part, is woven into the fabric of the chapters themselves, punctuated with effective grounding in the literature and a deliberate embedding of case studies throughout. We are reminded that an effective digital scholarship program extends far beyond the instrumentality of promoting proficiency with technical tools, but rather addresses how one might effectively reimagine resources and find new paths to sustainability. In an environment where “the focus has shifted from enabling consumption to enabling creation,” we might find useful a corresponding adjustment to the vision for academic libraries: striving less for library integration and focusing instead on finding ways of embedding the university within the library (123).—Andrea Kosavic, York University

Copyright Andrea Kosavic


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