A Whole New World: Digital Library Federation Forum, Vancouver, B.C.

This Forum Update was provided by Shaneé Yvette Murrain, Director of Library Services and Seminary Archivist, Payne Theological Seminary. @HalleLibraryShaneemurrain.blogspot.com

As the first Seminary Archivist at Payne Theological Seminary, my primary work involves curating the Payne Theological Seminary and African Methodist Episcopal Church Digital Archive, a collaborative project between the Internet Archive and Princeton Theological Seminary’s Theological Commons Digital Initiative. My research interests include digital literacy, African American religious history and archival evidence of how respective religious traditions engaged with social justice. The Digital Library Federation annual meeting provided multiple opportunities to dialogue with a variety of digital libraries colleagues [pullquote1 align=”right”]I was pleased to notice the conference’s attentiveness to race and gender as these intersections touched every part of the forum design.[/pullquote1]about born-digital preservation, linked data, and authority control. I was pleased to notice the conference’s attentiveness to race and gender as these intersections touched every part of the forum design, from the registration table inviting attendees to select appropriate gender pronoun stickers, to the welcome from Larry Grant, elder of the Musqueam First Nation, during the opening plenary.

My favorite dialogue of the Forum was Dr. Safiya Noble’s talk, which centered on Google algorithms and how our metadata is not neutral. She used recent examples from social media including the White House Google maps Incident uncovered by #Blacklivesmatter and #Ferguson organizer Deray McKesson. Dr. Noble began her talk providing books and scholars which grounded her work and provide a critical framework, offering a subversive narrative of how people of color and women are described by search engines.

I greatly appreciated the opportunity to dine with other “Cross Pollinator” fellows for breakfast two mornings during the conference. Our talks ranged from taxidermy, prisons, Ohio and the perks of living in D.C. and yet still managed to include rich reflection about the work we were doing in our individual libraries and cultural heritage organizations. The Dine-Arounds also gave me the opportunity to connect with three wonderful librarians in three different positions with a variety of library experience. Over dinner at Nuba, an excellent Lebanese restaurant, I learned about the history of DLF from two current library directors who were founding members. It was fascinating to hear them talk about the beginning of digitization and the costs of implementing large scale projects back in the day.

In addition delving deeply into Dr. Safiya Noble, I attended the following sessions just to name a few, “Getting a DPLA Service Hub off the Ground: Sharing Experiences, Challenges, Best Practices and Replicable Hub Models,” “Digital Collections as Data: Re-packaging, Re-mixing, and Sharing Collections for New Forms of Scholarship,” and “Archivematica as a Service: a Cloud-based, Consortial Approach to Digital Preservation /Mind the Gap. Bridging Digital Libraries & Archives.” All these sessions challenged me to think about creating a strategy for digital archives integration into the curriculum, determining professor vita sharing needs and how these two issues connects to supporting research and teaching needs, not simply linking data and creating projects for work sake, and defining the first steps in creating workflows for sustainable projects.

All of the sessions were informative but I was most intrigued by the session, “ Starting with ‘Yes, And…’: Collaborative Instructional Design in Digital Scholarship” in which all attendees were invited to “commit” to an hour and a half long experiment in Improv sessions. It used Improv to demonstrate how to overcome communication obstacles between the various groups working together to run the library, including the IT Staff, Curators, Reference Staff, Catalogers and so on. Icebreaker[pullquote1 align=”left”]Having access to community notes and a densely populated Twitter hashtag is something I’ll be looking for at every library conference I attend from this point forward.[/pullquote1] games like “Clap Wave,” “Birthday Game” and “Conducted Story” highlighted the importance of thoughtful listening, teamwork, discovering alternate means of communication and being in the moment, all useful tools in any kind of collaborative library work.

As a Reference and Public Services Librarian who encountered the error message “link not found” frequently while doing bibliographic instruction, I was fascinated by the session “Linked Open Data at the American Art Collaborative and Yale Center for British Art: Paving the Way for Better Engagement and Research.” The presenters shared and explained how they crowdsourced photo identification and how to unify data from the four major description systems used for their various collections. After this session I posted a question to Twitter about broken links and no less than three librarians immediately engaged me in conversation about my query. This is definitely the most “techie” conference I attended. Having access to community notes and a densely populated Twitter hashtag is something I’ll be looking for at every library conference I attend from this point forward.

I really enjoyed the 6 snapshots sessions where I learned about the open access portal College Women: Documenting the History of Women in Higher Education. I immediately thought about how “College Women” was defined and what groups of educated young women were immediately left out of the conversation because their institutions weren’t represented (including Bennett and Spelman Colleges, two historically Black colleges). Thinking about race and gender again, I had great conversations with fellow Underrepresented Groups Fellows, T-Kay Sangwand and Yasmeen Shorish about our scholarship name and whiteness in librarianship. We did not come with an alternate name that felt comfortable because all positioned us ethnically and racially as other. I’d like to continue the conversation and come up with a more complimentary descriptor.

Throughout the duration of the conference I learned the names of so many new software titles, programming languages, concepts unique to doing the work of digital libraries including the silos. Another unexpected bonus of attending the forum was running into so many of my former colleagues from my time at Duke Divinity School Library including Joyce Chapman, Jenn Riley and Will Sexton. During my alone time, I met two new faces, NBA player Baron Davis and his teammate Frank, who I sat next to at breakfast at Café Medina.

The first thing I noticed about the DLF membership is that it is small and everyone knows one another, therefore it is fairly easy to get involved in committees and approach colleagues about tangible collaborations. While attending the Digital Library Assessment Lunch I volunteered to work with the committee on outreach strategies and  analytics. I am very pleased and grateful to have received the ARL+DLF Underrepresented Groups award and look forward with delight to participating in upcoming meetings.