On Friday, January 10, I had the great opportunity to co-present my work on the Douglass Alumnae Oral History Project with my supervisor, Kayo Denda at the 2014 VALE Users’ Conference. Our presentation was titled “Doing Digital Humanities: Expanding Undergraduate Research Capabilities through NVivo.” We were lucky to have a full room and many attendees from Rutgers as well as other institutions from around the state.
Here’s the story behind the presentation:
Kayo is supervising an undergraduate student in the Aresty program at Rutgers. These students take on an independent research project over the course of an academic year and present at poster in April about their work. We’ve been working with a student on the Douglass Alumnae Oral History Project to perform textual analysis using NVivo. We helped her develop a research question, which is: What were the expectations of women before, during, and after WWII in terms of a college education, a career and marriage/family?
So why is this important for academic librarians? We think there are a bunch of reasons (in a nutshell):
NVivo is naturally suited to librarian’s sensibilities. It’s about research, metadata, coding and creating taxonomies. Therefore learning it, teaching it, and using it makes a lot of sense. It’s an opportunity for librarians to learn an emerging technology that actually dovetails with the work they already do instead of having to become a graphic designer or application developer.
It’s a way for librarians to expand their role in the research process. As more and more research takes place online, there seems to be a perception (real or not) that librarians aren’t playing as large a role in the research process anymore. I staff the reference desk and chat and still get plenty of research questions, but probably not as many as a librarian would have received 15 years ago. Teaching students to use NVivo to help them read carefully, annotate their readings, and organize their research is a way to be a part of the process. There are also lots of ways that librarians can collaborate with faculty to create assignments using NVivo that can help build the skills that professors and librarians are working to nurture in students.
Digital humanities is hot right now and NVivo is a low-stakes way to participate and experiment. What new conclusions can you draw now that you can mark up, organize, and run queries?
I also talked about my involvement in the project, which has been personal and unexpectedly moving for me. I’m a Douglass grad, but never felt all that connected to the college while I was there. Being a part of the oral history project made me feel like I was a part of something bigger. I’m also learning audio and video preservation softwares, managing workflows, teaching non-traditional info lit classes like interview workshops, and presenting at conferences.