2015 DLF Forum: After 20 Years, Many Firsts

Kathlin Smith
This Forum Update, cross-posted from CLIR Issues, Nov. – Dec. 2015, is by Kathlin Smith, Director of Communications at CLIR (the Council on Library and Information Resources). Thanks to all for a terrific DLF Forum 2015, and stay tuned for more information the next Forum in early 2016!

Even as the Digital Library Federation (DLF) celebrates its 20th birthday, the 2015 Forum was notable for several “firsts.” Held in Vancouver Oct. 26-28, the Forum was our first in Canada and the largest yet, with some 600 attendees, including those attending DLF’s affiliated events.

For the first time, a Liberal Arts College preconference was held in conjunction with the Forum. The one-day meeting was designed to foster conversation and build community among those who work with digital libraries or digital scholarship at liberal arts colleges. The preconference included concurrent sessions of presentations and panels on pedagogical, organizational, and technological approaches to digital humanities and digital scholarship, data curation, digital collections, and digital preservation. “No librarian needs to be a specifically digital librarian to understand the power that digital libraries and digital materials can bring to support the liberal arts,” wrote Megan Browndorf, history liaison for Towson University’s Cook Library, in a blog post from the Forum. “This liberal arts pre-conference very much brought that home.”

Also for the first time, the Forum included a new cohort of DLF members from the museum community, thanks to support from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. “The opportunity to network and learn from other art museum digital specialists and compare and contrast our experience was invaluable as a new outlet for support and exploration,” writes Kristen Regina, president of the Art Libraries Society of North America and director of the Library and Archives at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, in her blog post, “Bridging the Glam Gap.”

New in 2015 was a program for establishing mentoring relationships among community members. The program is centered around face-to-face interaction at the Forum, and more than 100 participated as mentors and mentees. “DLF comes down to the people,” wrote Kevin Clair, of the University of Denver. “Some of my favorite conversations  . . . were really all about how to keep [the] conversations going after the conference is over, through the fellowship and mentoring programs that DLF is starting to get going now.”

The 2015 Forum was the first under the leadership of DLF’s new director, Bethany Nowviskie, and perhaps most notably, it focused not just on the “how” of digital library technologies, but also on the “why”—the social, political, and ethical contexts of the library and information professions. The theme was powerfully conveyed by Safiya Noble, assistant professor in the Department of Information Studies at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, in her keynote address.

“From the keynote at the DLF Liberal Arts College pre-conference with Chris Bourg and Cecily Walker to the #ourDLF closing event, DLF presenters and attendees were engaged in thinking about the broader context of the work that we do, framing it within cultural, social, and political contexts,” writes Jasmine Jones, of Smith College in her blog post, “Exploring the Boundaries at the DLF Forum.” “Every session, even those that were more technical, had me thinking about what it means to be an information professional that challenges the inherent structures of power and biases in the systems we develop, the vocabularies we use, etc.; what it means to be ethical and meaningful in praxis; about how to ensure inclusivity when developing services for our communities.”

Several Forum sessions were recorded and will be announced when they are available. A rich range of perspectives on the Forum are available through blog posts at https://www.diglib.org/topics/forum/.

Next year’s Forum will take place Nov. 7-9 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

DLF Forum 2015 collage