Stockton assignment1 7130


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Stockton assignment1 7130

  1. 1. Alicia Stockton The Information Needs of Humanities Scholars The humanities include disciplines that are the foundation of human experience and culture. Literature, art, and history continue to shape civilization as they have for thousands of years. In recent years, these fields have received less attention than the more utilitarian fields in the sciences and social sciences. At the same time, new scholarship is encouraged by the availability of sources in digital form. The nature of humanities scholarship is in transition in the current academic climate. In order to preserve the humanities, librarians must work closely with scholars to identify their needs, expose them to electronic sources, and promote the importance of humanities scholarship to the academic community at large. The research patterns of a humanities scholar are unique. Keeran states that “the humanist starts with a question, which is explored using a variety of primary and secondary texts in which his or her personal interpretation of material is central to conclusions reached.” (2001). Books are preferred over journals, and print sources are used more often than electronic sources. Even if Journal articles are consulted at the beginning of a project and used as a stepping stone, but monographs provide scholars with most of their information. (Carr 2005). Electronic sources are consulted if they are considered to be more useful or timely than a print source. (Barrett 2005). Print sources, however are still more widely respected in the humanities. Rimmer’s study (2007) found that scholars often cited the print version of a source even if they consulted the electronic one. Another complaint about electronic sources is that
  2. 2. there is a lack of primary materials. (Barrett 2005). There is still a bias against electronic sources in the humanities, though it seems to be diminishing. Humanists consider the library their laboratory because most of their sources are located at or acquired from libraries. (Keeran 2001). Ironically, though they frequently use the library, they are hesitant to ask reference librarians for assistance. Most often this is because they feel they are familiar with available sources in their narrow area of expertise. (Couch&Allen1993; Wiberly 1989). Scholars can benefit from consulting librarians because they possess knowledge of different databases, and can discern which ones are most useful for the research question at hand. This can save the scholar a lot of time. (Wiberly 1989). Librarians are more successful in reaching scholars when they meet them at functions where faculty are rather than in the library itself. This requires more effort on the part of library staff, but it reinforces the library’s role in the research process. (Wiberly 1991). Research topics in the humanities are more subjective and individualistic than those in the sciences. Humanities scholars attempt to tap into cultural phenomena and social movements rather than presenting mere facts. (Blazek & Aversa 2000). Humanists are concerned with individuals and their condition rather than sweeping conjectures about large groups of people. What separates the humanities from other fields is its examination of human experience, thought and emotion on an individual level. (Frow 2005). The humanities are in danger in the current academic climate that values utility over knowledge. Scholars need to abandon the “ivory tower” approach, as Patricia Cohen suggests, and should focus instead on illustrating the real value of their disciplines. (Cohen 2009). The sciences are seen as more valuable by many because of their applications in real world situations. Departments also face a lack of funding making it harder for younger scholars to find jobs at
  3. 3. major research universities. This makes it harder for these scholars to establish the same level of collegiality among their peers as older scholars. (Couch & Allen 1993). Information cannot be shared as easily among scholars as a result, and this causes an even greater divide between disciplines. Scholars must fight to prove that the humanities are the foundation of human society as we know it. Librarians must take responsibility for educating scholars on available resources within their academic disciplines. New technologies provide access to sources that were previously only available in special collections or archives, breeding new topics for scholars’ exploration and examination. Though the humanities are important to human culture, they are often considered trivial when compared to the sciences. This creates a transition in the way scholars present their research and influences the topics they study. Humanists need to emphasize the value of their disciplines and create new interest in them. This will ensure that the humanities are preserved within academia, and that future scholars will add to the cumulative body of knowledge they represent. References Barrett, A. (2005). The information-seeking habits of graduate student researchers in the humanities. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 31(4): 324-331. Blazek, R. & Aversa, E. (2000). Introduction to the humanities. The humanities: A selective guide to information sources (5th ed.). Greenwood Village, Col.: Libraries Unlimited. pp. 1-11.
  4. 4. Carr, P. (2005). Beyond the monograph: The uses of journal literature by humanities scholars at Mississippi State University. Collection Management, 30 (2): 3-17. Cohen, Patricia. (2009, February 25). In tough times, humanities must justify their worth. The New York Times , pp. C1, C5. Couch, N. & Allen, N. (1993). Introduction. The humanities and the library (11-27). Chicago: American Library Association. Frow, J. (2005). The public humanities. The Modern Language Review (100), 269-280. Keeran, P. (2001). Humanities reference librarians in the electronic age: Strategies for integrating traditional on-line resources in an academic library. The Reference Librarian, 72: 123-136. Rimmer, J, et al. (2007). An examination of the physical and the digital qualities of humanities research. Information Processing and Management, 44: 1374-1392. Wiberly, S. E. (1989). Patterns of information seeking in the humanities. College and Research Libraries, 50: 638-645. Wiberly, S. E. (1991). Habits of humanists: Scholarly behavior and new information technologies. Library Hi Tech, 9(1): 17-21.