Dr. Kyle Roberts

Research and Writing Library History in the Digital Age

Date: August 31, 2018

Time: 1:00-2:00pm

Room: Informatics East, Rm 130


Digital platforms, source, and tools have changed the way we study libraries over the past few decades. Virtual library systems have made difficult-to-use analog records easily searchable and accessible for analysis, showing us what individuals and communities collected, classified, and borrowed. Provenance projects have documented the range of markings in material texts, revealing where books were acquired, who owned them, and the ways people used them. Social network analysis has exposed the sometime surprising connections between library members, patrons, and the broader community. But how do we move beyond the creation of digital archives and databases to write new, argument-driven histories of libraries? How can these digital library histories help us rethink our understanding and interpretation of the past beyond library walls? In this paper, I will reflect on these important questions through the example of the Jesuit Libraries Provenance Project (https://jesuitlibrariesprovenanceproject.com/), a collaborative research project undertaken by my students and myself at Loyola University Chicago over the last several years.


Dr. Kyle Roberts is Associate Professor of Public History and New Media and Director of the Center for Textual Studies and Digital Humanities at Loyola University Chicago. He is the co-editor, most recently, of Before the Public Library: Reading, Community, and Identity in the Atlantic World, 16501850 (with Mark Towsey: Brill, December 2017), co-creator of the AHRC/ESRC-funded Dissenting Academies Online: Virtual Library System (http://vls.english.qmul.ac.uk/), and director of the Jesuit Libraries Provenance Project (http://jesuitlibrariesprovenanceproject.com/). He is at work on a history of nineteenth-century Catholic book and library culture in the Midwestern United States