Enabling Innovation

Scott Walter

Just last year, we were completing final plans with our partners from across the university to begin the John T. Richardson Library renovations that would allow us to open the Information Commons in Fall 2013. One of our shared goals in this project was to create new approaches to traditional library services that would deepen our engagement with DePaul faculty and allow us to work with them to explore new approaches to teaching and research across the curriculum. As we complete our first year in the new space, we can already see the success of these efforts, especially in the digital humanities.The Scholar’s Lab, for example, has proven to be a popular resource for faculty teaching in areas such as English, History, Music, and more. Beginning with an English Capstone course (ENG 390) co-taught in Fall 2013 by John Shanahan (English) and Megan Bernal (University Library), a number of courses have taken advantage of the technology, collaborative work environment, and access to library staff expertise provided by the Scholars Lab, including:

ENG 471 (Bibliography and Literary Research) (Winter 2014), in which students assessed the impact of “big data” on the humanities using text analysis tools and the Twitter API;

HAA 397 (Digital Art History Mapping Chicago Architecture during the Cold War) (Winter 2014), in which students worked with digital images and mapping software to create their final group project, an online survey book of Chicago architecture;

NMS 504 (Text and Image) (Winter 2014), in which students received instruction in Lightroom, a software used for image creation and editing;

WRD 360 (Topics in Rhetoric Rhetoric of Warfare in the 20th Century) (Spring 2014), in which students took advantage of the space and resources to integrate the Operation War Diaryproject into their coursework; and

HST 360 (Doing Digital History) (Spring 2014), in which students worked collaboratively to discover, evaluate, and interpret digital historical materials and to learn about software used for the creation of digital exhibits, including Omeka.

Innovative teaching and innovative scholarship often go hand-in-hand, and the library is also prepared to support research projects that take advantage of our enhanced digital collections and services. Fr. Edward R. Udovic (History), for example, has built on his award-winning course on the history of Lincoln Park by employing the Historypin site to develop a unique collection of street-level walks around DePauls historic neighborhood informed by a combination of historic images and advertisements taken from postcards, photographs, and publications held in the DePaul University’s Special Collections and Archives.

Over the past several years, the DePaul University Library has invested resources in the creation of digital content, the acquisition of digital tools and technology, the renovation of space suitable to the pursuit of teaching, learning, and scholarship in a digital age, and in the recruitment of staff with the expertise that our faculty and students need to engage in emerging fields of teaching and research in the digital humanities and social sciences. We have seen several successful efforts pursued since the launch of the Scholar’s Lab last fall, and we look forward to working with additional faculty in the coming year to cement the University Library’s place as a partner and a promoter of innovation in teaching and research at DePaul.

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