Information visualization skills for academic librarians. A content analysis of publications and online LibGuides in the digital humanities

Date16 September 2019
Published date16 September 2019
AuthorHsuanwei Michelle Chen
Subject MatterLibrary & information science,Librarianship/library management,Library technology,Information behaviour & retrieval,Information user studies,Information & knowledge management,Information & communications technology,Internet
Information visualization skills
for academic librarians
A content analysis of publications and online
LibGuides in the digital humanities
Hsuanwei Michelle Chen
San José State University, San José, California, USA
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to investigate how scholars in the digital humanities employ
information visualization techniques in their research, and how academic librarians should prepare
themselves to support this emerging trend.
Design/methodology/approach This study adopts a content analysis methodology, which further draws
techniques from data mining, natural language processing and information visualization to analyze three
peer-reviewed journals published within the last five years and ten online university library research guides
in this field.
Findings To successfully support and effectively contribute to the digital humanities, academic librarians
should be knowledgeable in more than just visualization concepts and tools. The content analysis results for
the digital humanities journals reflect the importance of recognizing the wide variety of applications and
purposes of information visualization in digital humanities research.
Practical implications This study provides useful and actionable insights into how academic librarians
can prepare for this emerging technology to support future endeavors in the digital humanities.
Originality/value Although information visualization has been widely adopted in digital humanities
research, it remains unclear how librarians, especially academic librarians who support digital humanities
research, shouldprepare for this emerging technology.This research is the first study to addressthis research
gap through the lens of actual applications of information visualization techniques in digital humanities
research, which is compared against universityLibGuides for digital humanities research.
Keywords Digital humanities, Academic libraries, Library instruction, Academic librarians,
Information visualization, Library services
Paper type Research paper
In recent years, as data have become more voluminous, versatile, accessible and digitized,
new technologies have emerged with the goal of providing advanced analytical
capabilities to support knowledge discovery and decision making. Information
visualization, the technique of creating 2- or 3-dimensional representations of data that
enable discoveries of insights and knowledge(Soukup and Davidson, 2002), is one of the
primary technologies being adopted as an analytical tool to enhance and shape data
interpretation. More specifically, information visualizations unique pattern and outlier
detection capabilities render it an essential tool for disciplines ranging from computer
science to the humanities. The digital humanities community has also increasingly
witnessed its prevalence in both the literature and in practice. Employing various
visualization techniques, information professionals can analyze metadata, tags, text,
images and any digital information through visual means to gain a better understanding
of how humanities material has been created to present, communicate and deliver
messages. For example, Forlini et al.s (2016) cultural analysis of science fiction used
visualization to shape research questions and ongoing findings rather than as an
analytical tool. Additionally, Ferster et al. (2014) used information visualization to conduct
knowledge mapping for an 85-year run of a journal. Research has also addressed how
information visualization can be used to help overcome challenges in the digital
Library Hi Tech
Vol. 37 No. 3, 2019
pp. 591-603
© Emerald PublishingLimited
DOI 10.1108/LHT-01-2018-0012
Received 23 January 2018
Revised 11 September 2018
31 October 2018
Accepted 12 November 2018
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