Capping Project


Providing digital reference services for historians is not an easy task. Historians’ information seeking behavior involves often vague research intentions, intuitive searching and the combined use of digital and traditional resources. While many historians are open to utilizing digital resources, there are also many who are comfortable using and not willing to abandon print resources. The ease and simplicity of print resources and the general failure of digital tools to meet the information needs of historians account for their determination to continue their use of traditional resources. Digital reference for historians must seek to find ways of providing tools that can co-exist with, enhance, and provide a viable alternative for print resources. Essential to creating a viable digital reference service for historians is improving the quality of finding aids and making virtual reference as equally reliable as face to face reference. Education of aspiring historians is also essential to providing effective digital reference to historians. Digital reference services for historians must take advantage of the willingness of many historians to make use of electronic tools and also accept their wish to continue using print resources. Advances in the quality of finding aids and digitization will allow historians to survey archive and repository collections before visiting the institutions and examining the documents. The creation of an information network for manuscript and archival materials is possible through improved finding aids. There are already many opportunities for historians to make use of digital resources: informative websites, the web pages of archives and museums, and digital databases. The continued and increased use of digital reference services on the part of historians is likely; continuing improvements in finding aids, virtual reference and other digital tools will ensure that digital reference continues to enhance the research of historians.