Emory Report
December 8, 2008
Volume 61, Number 14

A new commons for teaching, research

Over this spring and summer, Emory Libraries’ Connie Moon Sehat will be launching the “Digital Scholarship Commons,” or DiSC, to help train, inspire and connect faculty members throughout the University who want to use computer science in creative ways to enhance their teaching and/or research.

“We chose the term ‘commons’ because we want to use the library space to bridge the humanities and sciences, and also the professional schools,” Sehat says.

The first goal of DiSC will be to train a group of consultants within the library system who can help introduce faculty members to resources such as Zotero, an open-source bibliographic manager that is being further refined and developed through a partnership between Emory and the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University.

A series of workshops will introduce the basics of digital scholarship, including ways to approach grant writing. Successful digital scholarship projects from around the country will be discussed, such as the idea of a Harvard professor to teach a course via Second Life.

A conference hosted by Emory Libraries and the Council on Library and Information Resources April 17–18 will bring digital scholars from the U.S., Canada and Europe to campus to discuss their projects.

“This is an emerging field,” Sehat says. “There are lots of small start-up projects, and people are searching for models to go by. We want to develop a more lasting infrastructure as a base for people to build on.”

For more information about DiSC, visit the new Web site: http://disc.library.emory.edu.



Emory Report homepage  

December 8
, 2008
A virtual librarian

By Carol Clark

Connie Moon Sehat, Emory Libraries’ new director of digital scholarship initiatives, combines a love of history, art, culture, language and technology in one compact, high-energy package. “I’ve had a wide-ranging set of interests,” she says, laughing as she settles into a comfortable chair outside her office in Woodruff Library.

Sehat’s father was a systems engineer who was often transferred, so her family moved frequently during her childhood, including stops in South Korea — where both her parents were born — and cities around the southern United States.

While completing a degree in art history Sehat did internships in computer science. She then worked as a software engineer for NASA, designing applications for the International Space Station and Mission Control. “It was fascinating and frustrating,” she says of the job. “I got the chance to see some of the smartest minds at work.”

Sehat left NASA for graduate school at Rice University. “I love art, but I’m actually more interested in culture and society,” she says, explaining her Ph.D. in German history. “The moral questions surrounding the Holocaust have always intrigued me.”

She lived in Germany for a while, adding German to her language repertoire, which also includes the ability to read French and understand spoken Korean. “The strangeness and familiarity of living in a different culture makes you see your own culture differently,” Sehat says. Her dissertation looked at ways that science museums in East and West Germany express ideas about freedom and technology.

The next stop for Sehat was George Mason University in Washington D.C. where she served as associate director of research projects for the Center for History and New Media. One well-known project of the CHNM is a digital archive of oral histories and images from the 9/11 terrorism attacks: http://911digitalarchive.org/.

In August, Sehat joined Emory, which she says is positioned to become a leader in the emerging trend of digital scholarship. Rick Luce, vice provost and director of libraries, is known as an IT innovator who is committed to digital library development.

“Emory is a broad research institution with a lot of faculty members who are open to exploring digital media,” Sehat says. “At its heart, digital scholarship is interdisciplinary, investigative and creative.”

A major challenge to researchers in the information age is the overabundance of data. “The Bush Administra-tion is expected to generate something like 100 million e-mails,” Sehat says. “How is any one scholar supposed to read all that? You can’t.”

But the Internet era also provides opportunities to mine data more efficiently, enrich research and expand the reach of academia.

A good example of digital scholarship at Emory is “Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database,” a free and interactive Web-based resource which recently launched. “You can literally see how many people got on the boat in Africa and how many got off,” Sehat says. “It provides amazing evidence that allows people to comprehend things quickly.”