By: Leah Marks
This week I will responding to the 2012 report Supporting the Changing Research Practices of Historians. It was written by Jennifer Rutner and Roger C. Schonfeld and published by Ithika S+R. The goal of the report was to offer a series of recommendations to improve the field of history and to optimize the process of research for both students and professional historians. They did this by speaking with a few key groups. These include “research support professionals”, i.e. librarians and professionals that work in archives associated with libraries, and academic historians and graduate students.
Rutner and Schonfeld produced four key findings at the end of their research. These are:
- “Gaining Intellectual Control”- Historians are struggling to properly organize the growing number of research available to both digitally and physically.
- “Discovery and Digitization”- Those interviewed emphasized the value of online finding aids.
- “The Library and Archive”- While they were very happy with digitization efforts of librarians, Historians were concerned the librarians do not have a sufficient understand of the sub fields they specialize in and therefore cannot provide enough assistance throughout the research process.
- “Support vs. Collaboration”- Increased collaboration between departments, libraries, and services providers was recommended.
The report offers a series of recommendations, all of which I do not have the space to list but I will attempt to include the most relevant ones.
a. Archives should continue to work on digitizing both their materials and their findings aids.
b. Archives should create more tools to facilite the discovery of sources related to the historians topic. In addition they should offer training the Phd student in the use of their archive.
c. Libraries should expand their partnerships with other libraries. This includes expanding what is available to borrow and making staff at partner institutions available to provide aid to historians.
d. Providers of research materials such as Google Books should increase access to foreign language material.
e. Providers also need to address concerns related the quality of the content they digitize.
Overall, I was surprised by how much I related to the concerns expressed by the historians interviewed for this report, espcially since it was published ten years ago. As a graduate student, I rely heavily on digitzed content for my research as I don’t have unlimited reasources to travel. In addtion, I often find myself completely overwhelmed when navigating a new archive with no assistance from librarians or archivists. Despite the continuing development of new digital tools, I still struggle with some of these same issues.
- Would you add anything if given the opportunity to be interviewed by the authors of this report? Why or Why not?
- Which digital tools do you find yourself using the most? Were they mentioned in the report?
- Is there anything you did not agree with in this report?
- If this report was to be reproduced ten years later do you think the findings would differ? How so?