Get to Know BC’s Digital Scholarship Team: Stephen Sturgeon

I am the Senior Digital Scholarship Librarian & Bibliographer for English at the Boston College Libraries, and it’s tempting to describe my role in this position inaccurately: one part traditional specialist specialist and library liaison (collection development, research consultations, reference instruction), another part digital project manager that calls for a different, higher-tech set of skills and knowledge. As convenient as that division is, and although it does exist to some extent, more often than not my day-to-day activities involve finding or creating a seam between the two sides.

What digital tools can a class of undergraduates use to turn an online collection of American immigrant correspondence transcriptions to their best advantage? What metadata standards will most accurately represent the physical realities of primary source materials whose surrogates are in a digital archive? Can Natural Language Processing show us something previously hidden about the nature of authorship in circumstances where authorial collaboration was the norm and not an exception? Do user license restrictions attached to monographic e-books in the humanities make sense for the majority of library patrons who confront them? These are some questions for which a deep knowledge of content isolated from a dexterity with digital platforms will not provide adequate answers.

That said, most of my experience is as a literature subject specialist, and so I do (at the moment) tend to enter these questions from a consideration of content, the text that a question or project has made come into play. But my outside-of-the-library activities as a teacher (early modern British poetry), textual critic (British modernism), and writer (mostly poetry), the various ways I interact with and make texts, keep my curiosity vigorous and generate questions to think about inside the library. What most interests me currently is how web tools like Voyant and Wheaton College’s Lexos, and more advanced programs like Stanford’s CoreNLP Toolkit, can lead us into new directions of close reading.