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September 28th, 2005 by Ross Scaife

(via Peter Suber) Brock Read, A New Report Bemoans the State of Online Research on American Literature, Chronicle of Higher Education, September 28, 2005 (accessible only to subscribers). Excerpt:

Whether digitizing out-of-print novels or publishing their own criticism, a growing number of scholars are putting their research on American literature on the Web. But they’re not getting much support from their colleges, according to a new report that also serves as a catalog of online literary research. The report, “A Kaleidoscope of Digital American Literature,” was released on Tuesday by the Digital Library Federation and the Council on Library and Information Resources. It draws on interviews and case studies compiled by Martha L. Brogan, a library consultant who was once the director of collection development for libraries at Indiana University at Bloomington. Ms. Brogan’s study is, first and foremost, a catalog that includes digital collections, bibliographies, oral histories, and other critical material. According to David Seaman, executive director of the Digital Library Foundation, the catalog is unprecedented, chiefly because scholarly projects on the Web pop up in a “disjointed” fashion. The report “provides us, I think for the first time, with a fairly comprehensive, current survey of what’s out there,” Mr. Seaman said, “and that’s half the value of the report.” The other half, he said, comes from Ms. Brogan’s finding that too many book-digitization projects are maintained by scholars as “a labor of love,” without any significant support from their college libraries or English departments. That is a disturbing trend, Mr. Seaman said, because it means that many influential scholarly sites have no agreed-upon standards for presenting material, no consistent source of outside funding, and no plan for what happens if a professor quits or suffers a computer breakdown. Perhaps because of those concerns, many humanities scholars say they have little use for online resources, according to the report. And many young professors are disinclined to conduct digital research projects because online scholarship, which is not often subject to peer review, is seldom considered in promotion and tenure evaluations. “Until the digital age,” Mr. Seaman said, “the model in the humanities was one scholar, one carrel, one book. Compare that to other disciplines, where teams of people have co-authored papers all the time. The rise in a sense of community is still quite new in the humanities, and I think digital scholarship has contributed to that.”

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