The Digital Library Federation (DLF) is a community of practitioners who advance research, learning, social justice, and the public good through the creative design and wise application of digital library technologies. Each year, DLF hosts a forum in partnership with colleagues from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). I’m thrilled to share details about the sessions I attended this year, and provide background on DLF. In addition to the annual forum, DLF hosts a variety of working groups including the Digital Library Pedagogy Working Group, for which I am a member.
DLF promotes work on the following:
- Open digital library standards, software, interfaces, infrastructure, and best practices
- Digital stewardship and curation, including research data management and aggregation and preservation services for digital collections
- Digital humanities and other practices and services that expand access to resources and open new opportunities for research, teaching, and learning
- Education, professional development, lifelong learning, and the growth of the field
- Strengthened connections among digital library practitioners and allied or related professions, sectors, and areas of research
- The social contexts and impact of digital library work, including issues of surveillance and government records transparency and accountability
- Community-driven frameworks for policy advocacy, professional standards, ethics, issues of representation and diversity, labor, inclusion, and other matters of concern to digital library practitioners and the people and publics we serve
More information about DLF can be found on their website.
View the full DLF Forum 2020 schedule here. Recorded sessions will be made public in the coming weeks, and will be added to this blog post once they are available.
Do Black Lives Matter in Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums? Opening Plenary
Dr. Stacey Patton opened DLF Forum 2020 with an essential, compassionate session grappling with the question which framed her keynote. Referencing primary source material from the Claude McKay collection and citing Betty L. Jenkins' research on librarian Ernestine Rose, Dr. Patton highlighted the critical need for action in preserving physical collections, particularly those at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Calling us to action on mold, silverfish, water damage, temperature control and all forms of collection neglect, she urged that “the consequences of inaction will lead to damage to a Diasporic archival infrastructure and degradation and loss of Black community history and the destruction of future history— and some of it is intentional”. She stressed that “digitization is not the be all, end all” as primary source instruction and access remains a foundational component of information literacy and research instruction at all levels of education, suggesting annual seminars at the faculty level.
Advocating for context, she noted that preserving the archival and collection development process is equally as important as the knowledge itself. As we live through an era dominated by the quick quips of newsfeeds, a time when powerful marches for racial justice and equity continue in major cities, and as the pandemic disproportionately impacts Black communities in the United States, Dr. Patton’s stressing the importance of preserving context deeply resonated with me. Preserving not only archives, but how they came about, remains an ethical imperative of GLAMs. Providing the development of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture as an example and closing with a poem by McKay, Dr. Patton’s opening plenary encouraged us to lead change and rise to the occasion.
Linked While Apart: Overcoming Division with Linked Data
This panel discussion covered the basics of linked data, and posed important questions concerning the increasing presence of linked data in libraries. Panelists discussed how linked data can bring collections to a wider audience, expanding the discoverability of lesser known collections from historically underrepresented groups by breaking down traditional silos and enhancing web displays. Linked data can help address concerns surrounding interoperability, and libraries may lean on linked data to find new ways to easily share incompatible collections data, eliminating the need to crosswalk data into a common schema. In concluding remarks, a panelist asked a question that sent my colleagues and I into a frenzy of discussion: What happens when linked data is not maintained? Much like current cataloging and metadata maintenance work, library linked data will need to be maintained in order to serve its purpose in expanding collection access and visibility.
Teaching Towards Data Justice in Library Instruction
Isaac Williams, Data Visualization and GIS Librarian at the University of Texas at Arlington, focused on teaching data justice in libraries and digital humanities labs. They provided context for the growing interest in the field of data science, both within and outside of libraries, and noted that library instruction can compliment computer science and engineering programs by designing library curriculum to address the social implications of technology and data. Williams discussed how devoting full library instructional sessions to data justice allows for a richer understanding of algorithmic oppression and discrimination, while citing the research of Safiya U. Noble, Sarah T. Roberts, Ruha Benjamin, Lauren F. Klein, and Catherine D’Ignazio. Integrating data justice concepts into traditional workshops can also be helpful, while hackathons or editathons can offer participants a social, engaging introduction to data justice concepts with practical, hands-on experience.
We Were Here: Making HBCU Collections Digitally Accessible Through Grants
For this HBCULA partner session, presenters covered preservation and digitization work from Spelman College, Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library, Morehouse College, and the Digital Library of Georgia. Highlighting best practices for this large digitization project preserving institutional history, including metadata workflows and sharing collections with national repositories like the DPLA, the librarians and archivists discussed not only the mechanics of these efforts, but what is possible with resource allocation and grant funding. This digitization project resulted in over 611,000 digitized items/pages, 32 new online publications and collections, two digital exhibitions with research guides, and dissemination and promotion of the collections through blog posts, social media, conference presentations, and articles.
Metadata Works From Home: How Student Workers Continued to Work While Increasing Collection Accessibility
This session provided practical strategies and workflows for training student workers during the swift adjustment to remote learning and working. In just three weeks, student workers were trained via Zoom, provided with project documentation, and started on transcribing an archival video collection. Examples of staffing models and training sessions provided a clear picture of a complex and critical facet of archival digitization and technical services. The session included an interview with one student, who shared her relief in being able to continue working remotely through the pandemic, and expressed gratitude for the opportunity to gain experience with the detail-oriented process behind transcribing videos to make archival collections accessible.