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Conceptualizing the integration of digital humanities in instructional services: Possibilities to enhance digital literacy in the 21st century

Raymond Pun (New York University Shanghai, Shanghai, People’s Republic of China)

Library Hi Tech

ISSN: 0737-8831

Article publication date: 16 March 2015



The purpose of this paper is to conceptualize how digital humanities (DH) projects can be integrated into instructional services programs in libraries. The paper draws on three digital projects from the New York Public Library (NYPL) and explores how librarians can creatively utilize these resources to teach new digital literacy skills such as data analysis and data management. For patrons, they can learn about the content of these crowd-sourcing projects as well. By integrating DH projects into library instruction, the possibilities and opportunities to expand and explore new research and teaching areas are timely and relevant.


The approach of this paper is to explore NYPL’s three digital projects and underscore how they can be integrated into instructional services: “What’s On the Menu,” “Direct Me NYC” and “Map Warper” all offer strengths and limitations but they serve as paradigms to explore how digital resources can serve multipurpose use: they are databases, digital repositories and digital libraries but they can also serve as instructional service tools.


The paper conceptualizes how three DH projects can serve as teaching opportunities for instructional services, particularly teaching digital literacy skills. By exploring the content of each digital project, the paper suggests that users can develop traditional information literacy skills but also digital literacy skills. In addition, as crowdsourcing projects, the Library also benefits from this engagement since users are adding transcriptions or rectified maps to the Library’s site. Patrons develop visual literacy skills as well. The paper addresses how librarians can meet the needs of the scholarly community through these new digital resources. While the paper only addresses the possibilities of these integrations, these ideas can be considered and implemented in any library.

Practical implications

The paper addresses positive outcomes with these digital resources to be used for library instructional services. Based on these projects, the paper recommends that DH projects can be integrated into such instructions to introduce new content and digital skills if appropriate. Although, there are limitations with these digital resources, it is possible to maximize their usage if they are used in a different and creative way. It is possible for DH projects to be more than just digital projects but to act as a tool of digital literacy instruction. Librarians must play a creative role to address this gap. However, another limitation is that librarians themselves are “new” to these resources and may find it challenging to understand the importance of DH projects in scholarly research.


This paper introduces DH projects produced in a public research library and explores how librarians can use these digital projects to teach patrons on how to analyze data, maps and other content to develop digital literacy skills. The paper conceptualizes the significant roles that these DH projects and librarians can play as critical mediators to introducing and fostering digital literacy in the twenty-first century. The paper can serve as an interest to academic and public libraries with large research collections and digital projects. By offering new innovative ideas of integrating DH into instructional services, the paper addresses how DH projects teaching tools can support specific digital skills such as visual literacy and data analysis.



The author would like to acknowledge and thank the seventh Shanghai International Library Forum committee (SILF 2014: July 9-11, 2014 in Shanghai Library, China) where this article was presented as a paper.


Pun, R. (2015), "Conceptualizing the integration of digital humanities in instructional services: Possibilities to enhance digital literacy in the 21st century ", Library Hi Tech, Vol. 33 No. 1, pp. 134-142.



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