DLF Organizers’ Toolkit

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About DLF and the Organizers' Toolkit


The Digital Library Federation is committed to supporting inclusive, equitable, and highly effective communities of practice. We strive to be a welcoming organization and the focal point for a digital library culture that is actively anti-racist; that values evidence, expertise, and the diversity of human experience; that recognizes the intersectional effects of systemic oppression of all kinds; and that works compassionately across difference toward shared and inspiring goals. We invite everyone who shares our goals to learn more and join us.

Pragmatic, compassionate, skilled, and energetic people, both within and beyond our organizational membership, use the DLF as a platform for getting things done.

Together, we advance research, learning, social justice, and the public good through the creative design and wise application of digital library technologies.

Fostering a culture like this requires ongoing collaborative work—and deep care for those organizing and performing that work.

We believe that the best problem-solving, critical thinking, technical development, and community-based action happens when people with the widest possible array of experiences and perspectives come together as peers—working transparently and without heavy bureaucracy across institutional lines, and maintaining a level of comfort, safety, respect, and trust that supports honest exchange and allows the sharing of failures alongside success. And we offer this Toolkit in that spirit.

Thanks and Next Steps

The DLF Organizers’ Toolkit is a living document. Community input is welcome and encouraged. It is meant to improve our documentation of evolving community norms, contribute to best practice and institutional memory, and provide tips and resources to those who want to use the DLF to advance the field. This is your Toolkit for starting new initiatives or working groups, facilitating ongoing projects or connecting existing ones, and using the DLF as a platform to lift up anything from small conversations to sweeping movements.

We thank past and present DLF staff and community organizers for their contributions to this document, and invite more! Please feel free to make suggestions.

Working with Team DLF

Reach out to DLF staff and former leaders to find out as much information [as you can]. They are your best resource when first getting started.

DLF is amazing—don’t hesitate to reach out to them if you have an idea!

The Digital Library Federation is purposefully lightly staffed. This means that we welcome your creative thinking about the best ways to get things done—no process or system is set in stone, and you are not required to use technologies we offer or work to a certain timeline in order to get our support. 

Team DLF is always available to help with:

  • Forming new groups and initiatives, and discussing needed levels of DLF support;
  • Facilitating collaborations with other DLF groups and committees, including quarterly meetings for current working group leaders, and making connections beyond the immediate DLF community;
  • Creating editable pages on the DLF website and wiki, or creating and hosting other web resources;
  • Communications, including signal-boosting: promoting your group’s activities through DLF’s various social media channels, calendars, and lists;
  • Setting up an email list, scheduling a conference call (see “Scheduling Meetings on CLIR+DLF’s Zoom Account”), or facilitating a Twitter chat;
  • Options for open access publications, both online and print, including through CLIR;
  • Managing your data, with connections to DLF’s Github and OSF repositories;
  • Planning and organizing an in-person meet-up at the annual DLF Forum;
  • Creating cross-pollinator opportunities to connect your conference or community to ours;
  • Providing limited financial sponsorship or in-kind contributions to good causes;
  • Brainstorming next steps for your group and consulting on ways to build and maintain momentum; and
  • Learning from each other, and answering any questions about DLF you may have!

If you need support with any of the above or beyond, please contact us at info@diglib.org.

We work with energized, committed teams regardless of the organizational affiliation of their participants. You don’t have to be part of a DLF member organization to lead or join a working group.

That said, everything Team DLF does depends on the financial support of our members. If you are in a position to influence organizational membership decisions, we’d be extremely grateful for your advocacy!

We also happily support and amplify far more community-based activity than is represented elsewhere in this Toolkit or on our website. If you’re doing great work that needs a boost but not a “home,” don’t hesitate to contact us. We won’t co-opt or DLF-brand you.

We encourage you to email us at info@diglib.org, which is a shared inbox that Team DLF accesses Monday through Friday.

Starting a New Initiative or Working Group

DLF groups are typically formed by people with good ideas, so there’s no annual timeline or formal approval process for affiliation. Ideas for new working groups develop in a variety of ways. Many groups, like our Climate Justice Working Group, form out of conversations begun at the DLF Forum. Other groups arise as a continuation of prior work and initiatives begun outside of DLF, like the Technology Strategy for Archives Working Group. Have an idea for a working group, but not sure where to begin? Simply get in touch with us at info@diglib.org to discuss the possibilities!

Our working group leaders are self-starters and we encourage them to think creatively about platforms they can use independently to get their work done. The DLF Team works with groups on a case-by-case basis to try to get them the resources they need. We also make sure to reserve some space for DLF-affiliated groups at the DLF Forum.

In exchange, we ask that your group:

  • Operate under the DLF Code of Conduct if you use our name (or a similar code, in case of a partnership or pre-existing group).
  • Keep your DLF website and OSF and/or wiki pages reasonably up-to-date (even if those are mostly just pointers to information held elsewhere). See “DLF-Specific Communications Venues” for a list of platforms we currently provide for our working groups.
  • If promoting on social media, tag DLF on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram, and send messages about your work to our primary listserv, DLF-Announce, so that we can help promote it and drive traffic your way!

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions or ideas! Starting a new initiative or working group could be as simple as: 

  • Sending out a call for interest to gauge interest in the community;
  • Getting in touch with those willing to put in time, to schedule a meeting and develop a plan; or
  • Using DLF as a platform to circulate new ideas, resources, and readings, and to make progress on issues.

General Facilitation and Goal-Setting

For interactive sessions to be impactful, they need to be well organized—not only with a clear activity in mind—but also with report-outs & follow through.

Make sure tasks have deadlines (reasonable ones), and set up regular conference calls to keep things rolling.

We recommend the following set of general guidelines for group leaders:

Past and present coordinators of our existing groups are also a great resource, and in our experience they are always eager to share. Do you admire what an existing DLF group has accomplished? Get in touch with us at info@diglib.org and we will direct you to the right person.

You will lose people along the way – don’t fret it. Focus on where the energy is, and keep the ball rolling by engaging the ones with the energy.

Facilitating for Diversity and Inclusion

I’m grateful to the DLF for taking their mission of inclusion seriously.

I love the inclusive, expansive, thoughtful, and community-oriented leadership [of the DLF].

Social justice and the public good are front-and-center in DLF’s mission statement. But these are impossible goals to serve without thoughtful, conscious, welcoming, and dedicated efforts among all our working and interest groups, as well as among our staff and the volunteer committees that help organize DLF Forum. Most of all, we encourage DLF group leaders and participants to value and create conditions for humility and listening.

Below, you’ll find just a few recommended readings and toolkits for pushing against structural racism, systemic gender bias, able-ism, and other forms of oppression and exclusion that are endemic in librarianship and technology fields. Further suggestions can be found on the DLF Committee for Equity and Inclusion’s list of Reading Materials and Resources for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) 

DLF’s Code of Conduct has been in place since 2012. In 2016, DLF staff and members of the DLF Forum Planning Committee on Inclusivity (the precursor to DLF’s Committee for Equity and Inclusion) worked together to revise the Code of Conduct to cover activities happening under the Digital Library Federation umbrella, both in person and online, year-round. Since 2016, the CoC has been revised three times: in 2017 to include our 24/7 emergency number; in 2018 to include mention of active bystanders as well as information on reporting incidents outside of the customary staff reporting line; and again in 2020 with clarifying language.

All group facilitators are asked to read this document, share with their communities, and contact us with questions or suggestions.

DLF’s Code of Conduct encourages community members to seek concrete ways to make physical spaces and online resources more universally accessible. This includes actions like using the microphone during in-person events, turning on closed captioning for meetings, or scheduling virtual events to last no longer than two hours. Below, you’ll find some resources and readings containing guidelines and best practices for making your meetings accessible to the widest group possible.

Resources from DLF’s Digital Accessibility Working Group

In order to provide our community with the resources needed to be effective allies and active bystanders, DLF has underwritten formal ally skills training courses at past Forums and hosting the DLF Committee for Equity and Inclusion’s Active Bystander Orientation, in introduction to bystander intervention and an overview of active bystander strategies. Interested in having this opportunity available at a future DLF Forum or in helping us to fund opportunities like this? Let us know.

The level of generosity, drive toward inclusion, & care for colleagues in the @CLIRDLF community inspires, astounds.

Communications and Consensus

DLF groups are loosely organized by design.

Much of the work of organizing through DLF involves thoughtful internal and external communication, open and respectful collaboration along shared timelines, and careful consensus-building. We recommend a number of resources in this toolkit as a guide, especially in sections on “General Facilitation and Goal-Setting” and on “Facilitating for Diversity and Inclusion.” Ideally, the schedules — and tone — you help set for your group’s projects will allow for all voices to be heard. And in a perfect world, you’ll have plenty of time to loop Team DLF in as appropriate, for collegial advice, help where needed, an occasional sign-off on something big, and/or assistance with a communications plan.

However, as the organizer of a DLF group, you may sometimes need to respond independently to a situation arising outside of your regular meeting cycle. This could happen because:

  • another organization, group, or individual is seeking signatories to a statement or commitment to a collaboration, with a quick deadline;
  • you enter a public conversation related to your DLF group work, on social media or in a face-to-face venue;
  • you are approached by a member of the press for comment in an article appearing shortly; or
  • something else unexpected happens.

Situations like these may prompt you to:

  • rely on pre-established group norms/authorizations for “emergencies” or short-notice opportunities;
  • follow your group’s regular decision-making processes but skip a few steps in order to come to quick consensus;
  • use your wits and best judgment, being especially careful to clarify the extent to which you are speaking independently vs. for your group; or
  • determine independently whether or to what degree DLF staff involvement is needed.

More info on all of these topics is available below. Remember: You are warmly invited to share your favorite resources and help refine the advice given here, based on your own experience with DLF groups.

One of the greatest powers DLF groups have is in speaking from a well-informed, collective position, with a unified voice. DLF group conversations and creations may also inform your personal and professional views, serve as something to reference or point to, and generally become a terrific resource in your day-to-day work.

Whenever you are called on to represent your group, formally or informally — as well as on occasions when you are speaking as an individual whose opinions have been informed by the work of the group — you should be as clear as possible about your own role and stance, and the degree to which what you say does or does not represent the (consensus or diverging) views of fellow group members.

We also ask that you be careful in situations where an individual or group statement might be taken for an official position from the DLF or its non-profit parent organization, CLIR. We are always happy to advise on the wording for public announcements, even on short notice!

So, how do you foster healthy group consensus and create environments in which all participants can be respected and heard? Here are a few helpful frameworks and resources:

Formal DLF sign-off on group outputs and communications is not usually necessary, but it’s generally a good idea to keep us informed of upcoming announcements because we can amplify your message through social media, newsletters, messages to member organizations, in-person events, and more. Keeping DLF staff in the loop also helps us connect your team with aligned work happening in other DLF groups, or with outside organizations and funding or partnership opportunities.

How do you know when to check in? We’re happy to hear from you anytime! Call on Team DLF if you would like a boost from our social media accounts or other help getting the word out — and please do a gut check if you think we might need to know about something coming from a grassroots DLF group because it could impact our nonprofit status or our relationships with member organizations, peer organizations, or funders.

What’s the best way to reach us?

Use the DLF Working Group updates and request form.

If you are a current working group leader, the updates and requests form is available if you need to:

  • schedule a meeting on DLF’s Zoom account;
  • provide an update to your group’s landing page on DLF’s website; or
  • have a general question or suggestion for Team DLF.

All other messages sent to info@diglib.org will reach the entire DLF staff and get the speediest response. If you’ve already been working with a particular DLF staff member on an issue or feel most comfortable sharing something with just one of us, individual emails are fine! Direct messages sent through various social media platforms are less easily tracked and handed off, so we discourage them as a primary means of contact.

Our goal is not to slow you down or place unnecessary controls over your group’s public statements. We pride ourselves on DLF’s light touch, and on our low-bureaucracy, community-based approach. Mostly, we want to boost your good work! We also ask your help in working with us on potentially sensitive issues that could impact our relationships with other organizations and/or our nonprofit status. We might have advice to give or small requests to make with regard to wording and representation. When in doubt, please reach out!

One of the biggest challenges the DLF team has seen with group communications is the tendency to go heads-down once work begins. We encourage you to create a welcoming environment by sharing periodic news and issuing invitations to others to join.

DO remember to communicate outside your group!
Don’t fall into the trap of only sending messages to the insiders on your email list. Periodic open invitations to group meetings or updates about your work for the wider community are always welcome on DLF-announce.

Always provide context.
Don’t forget that this message might be the first time someone is hearing about your work. What is the name of this DLF group? What, in very brief terms, is its overarching purpose? If it’s a sub-group, how does it connect to something larger?

Make a clear request.
What is the goal of the current project or activity being shared? What is being asked of the reader? What is the best way to offer feedback or ask a question? If the request is to participate in a survey or provide input, how long should that take? Is there a deadline?

Invite deeper connection.
Where can readers find out more about the group? Are there related resources to explore? How can they join an upcoming meeting or otherwise get involved?

Clarify your own role.
Most group projects will be shared as a collective effort, credited to the group itself, but if you or others had a specific role to play, please don’t be shy about giving/accepting praise. All group members’ labor and specific contributions are valuable and should be acknowledged! And in situations where you are speaking as a group representative but without having vetted the message ahead of time, or as a private individual whose opinions might be construed to reflect those of your fellow group members or DLF as an organization, you have special obligations. (See above, “Speaking as Individuals and Groups.”)

Preventing and Managing Burnout

Community organizing and group leadership is hard work. You’re at your best when you’re taking time to care for yourself. Please don’t forget to put on your own oxygen mask first!

Tap into the community. Ask specific individuals for help or suggestions on who else to ask.

Don’t be afraid to say when you’ve taken on too much, and to ask for help. Some people won’t step up until asked directly, and it doesn’t help anyone if you go under.

Please contact Team DLF directly and confidentially if you are ever feeling over-stretched. We’ll find ways to continue your good work and give you a break! After all, it takes a #DLFvillage.

Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare.

Gathering Info/Building Enthusiasm

Ask questions of the group, and generate discussion on “what should we do next?” People want to see progress, and feel like they are making a difference.

Your future self (and your successors) will love you for documenting your process, e.g. Twitter chat template.

I think the coolest thing about #DLFteach chat was seeing so many people eager for ways not only to learn about resources but to share them.

Is your project just getting started? The DLF Digital Library Pedagogy group has found Twitter chats a successful way to engage current members in conversation, gauge interest in initiatives, and attract new members. DLF has also hosted chats on behalf of newly-forming groups on subjects like user requirements for born-digital resources. We are happy to hand over control of our @CLIRDLF Twitter account to your selected chat leaders, through Tweetdeck, for extra promotion of the event and so that questions can be tweeted out from a central account. Just get in touch for scheduling!

DLF groups often schedule Twitter chats in the afternoon and occasionally in the evening, in order to reach a broader group of participants across time zones and personal/professional obligations. Another common practice is to make a transcript available afterward as both a spreadsheet and a Wakelet presentation. Below are some resources on organizing, running, and documenting Twitter chats.

We also suggest conducting short surveys and polls, or requesting open comment on a brief, draft document or mission statement, as a good way to get a sense of your community. You can use tools like Google Forms/Google Docs or Twitter polls for this purpose, but for more in-depth, formal surveys we are happy to help you explore available options to build your survey

Please feel free to contact us for assistance or go right ahead with lighter-weight approaches! We only ask that you be sure to tag DLF on any social platforms you’re posting on (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn) and send messages about your work to our primary listserv, DLF-Announce, so that we can help promote it and drive traffic your way!

I've found Survey Monkey to be a useful tool to canvas a group -- to help narrow down areas of interest for forum sessions/working lunch topics.

Planning an In-Person Meetup

Working out practicalities of doing what you love is much more fun together.

Many DLF groups and communities meet annually at the DLF Forum. In-person meetings can be a great way to give your group a milestone toward which to work, and DLF groups find Forum gatherings a fun way to celebrate accomplishments, generate ideas and goals, welcome new members, and build momentum for the coming year. Our staff are available to consult, advise, and help with logistics. Possibilities include panel discussions, working sessions (where established DLF groups get special priority), breakfast meetings, workshops, or evening social meetups.

Some examples from recent DLF Forums:

Some things to think about if planning in-person meet-ups or events held outside of DLF Forum:

  • Where will your community be gathering anyway? Add-on events save costs!
  • What work can be done ahead of time, and what benefits most from in-person exchange?
  • How can you make your meeting as inclusive and accessible as possible?
  • What support from DLF would make all the difference?

Preparing a workshop for Forum is more labor-intensive than you’d think, but the rewards are high.

DLF staff will make every effort to create a safe and welcoming environment on-site at the DLF Forum, but please don’t forget that even off-site DLF group meetings (such as happy hour events and dinners) fall under the terms of our DLF Code of Conduct. Please take your responsibility as host seriously, and work to make gatherings enjoyable for everyone. To report incidents after our events, in online venues, or on-site but in the absence of a staff member, review our reporting procedures in the link above.

Setting Up Year-Round Meetings

To get the ball rolling, schedule a conference call. Email/listservs are great for some things, but a conference call or face-to-face meeting really gets discussion and action.

Most DLF groups meet regularly online (at least on a monthly basis, with sub-groups meeting more often). They generally use Zoom or other teleconferencing platforms provided by group leaders’ organizations, and schedule and announce calls on their own.

There is no requirement to use a DLF-provided platform, but we are happy to set up a call for you in Zoom, if you have a large group and DLF’s space is not otherwise booked (check the DLF Community Calendar for conflicts).

For additional resources and general guidelines about presenting at and/or hosting virtual meetings and events, see Planning Virtual Meetings and Webinars, originally created for the Organizer’s Toolkit in 2017 by Library & Archives Consultant Joy M. Banks, MSLS, as part of the CLIR Strategies for Advancing Hidden Collections project (SAHC).

WhenIsGood is an easy way to find out when everyone is free for your next meeting or event. No sign-ups or passwords required, and users just paint over their times of availability. Many DLF groups are finding this a friendlier alternative to the ubiquitous Doodle.

DLF maintains a Zoom Pro account that can be made available for audio conversations via Zoom app, browser or phone.

Please check our Community Calendar to make sure your preferred meeting time is available, then contact us for scheduling.

Check the calendar — and don’t forget time zones!

Scheduling Meetings on CLIR+DLF’s Zoom Account

DLF working groups are encouraged to schedule their meetings on the CLIR+DLF Zoom account. To set up your meeting, email staff at info@diglib.org with the following information:

  • Name of meeting
  • Date, time, and recurrence (if scheduling recurring meetings). Make sure to check the DLF Community Calendar for the current schedule of working group meetings.
  • Whether your meeting needs to be recorded

Once we receive your request, we’ll schedule your meeting in Zoom, add the meeting date/time to DLF’s Community Calendar (unless the meeting is closed to the public), and email a copy of the Zoom meeting invitation to you. Please note that screensharing is an option available to all in Zoom meetings on our account; however, if your group meeting requires breakout rooms or polls, please let DLF staff know at least 24 hours in advance so that we can ensure staff availability to transfer meeting host privileges at the start of your meeting time.

DLF Zoom Tips

For further instructions, visit the support page.

How can you ensure everyone who wants to participate in your meetings can?

Knowing that the group has a standing monthly meeting is so much better than constant Doodle polls.

Talking and Writing

It helps [motivation] to keep people focused on generating outcomes that will help them in their careers and get them visibility.

For very large group discussions, DLF supports listservs. Just ask us about setting one up. However, many of our groups prefer to create and manage their own Google Groups. (A tip from organizers: Google Group subscriptions default to no mail. Be sure your new subscribers adjust their settings to receive communications—or that you adjust them for them!) Finally, some DLF groups are setting up Slack spaces or channels within existing Slacks. If you do, let us know, so that we can join and help promote.

We’re also open to assisting with and promoting the use of other systems. Have an idea for a better way to communicate? Contact us!

Whether it’s a meeting agenda or set of minutes, a white paper, a blog post, or a CFP, you have many tools at your disposal for writing and editing as a group. These include: the DLF wiki (you can freely create new accounts and set up pages), Google Drive (for self-managed documents and spreadsheets), and Github (either managed independently or—for sustainability—in collaboration with CLIR/DLF).

Organizing and Sharing Your Work

One of the best ways to broaden your group’s reach is by keeping Team DLF updated on your current activities, projects, and plans. If there is something you want us to promote through DLF’s communication channels, please tag us in social media, add it to the DLF Community Calendar, add it to the agenda of our next quarterly working group leaders call (email us at info@diglib.org for the link), or let us know directly—we love to help DLF groups share their work!

In terms of organization, many DLF working groups and committees organize drafts and in-progress materials independently using GitHub and Google Drive. DLF’s Open Science Framework (OSF) repositories are good for finished white papers or other grey literature—especially documents for which you would like a DOI. Drop us a line if you’d like access.

Knowing that things would always be in the Google Drive folder has been a lifesaver -- no digging through email looking for the right attachment, being able to be part of the conference call even when mobile, and super-easy linking in our One Doc to Rule Them All.

We are happy to use any and all of these platforms to publish and share DLF community work.

  • DLF Community Calendar: covers events relevant to digital libraries and archives, digital humanities, and digital museums, as well as a growing number of open science and digital publishing events worldwide. It also lists the calls for DLF and NDSA working groups.
  • DLF-Announce, our primary listserv. Please, please please sign up for this low-traffic list and post about your group’s activities and upcoming meetings there!
  • Twitter. Get our attention for a retweet or signal boost by tagging @CLIRDLF and/or using hashtags such as #DLFforum, #ourDLF, and #DLFvillage.
  • DLF’s blog: get the word out by volunteering to write for our blog! We  welcome both short- and longer-format guest posts and announcements about DLF group activities. Here’s an example.
  • DLF on OSF
  • DLF on Facebook (We know you like us, but have you “liked” us?)
  • Google Team Drives – If you’d like a dedicated Google Team Drive with a DLF account, contact us!
  • Wakelet – A platform that helps you organize and store Twitter chats
  • CLIR+DLF Jobs Board (Don’t forget that job postings are free for DLF member organizations!)
  • LinkedIn (the DLF group and page)
  • Flickr / Instagram
  • YouTube
  • GitHub
  • DLF Wiki
  • If your group is preparing a report, please feel free to use and adapt the Google Docs template used by the Born-Digital Access Working Group (make a copy of the template in order to create an editable version).

[DLF’s Community Calendar is] a great one stop shop for conferences and events in digital + cultural around the world. If you know of an event that should be there, it has a crowd sourced component, so go forth!

In a Nutshell

Is there something missing from this Organizers’ Toolkit? Tell us! 

And for the short version...

a guide for present and future chairs, conveners, and other get-it-doners Organizing w/DLF Get in touch with us and tell us about your idea Know the DLF Code of Conduct and share it with your group Kick things off with conversation - a call or a Twitter chat Don't hesitate to pose questions-to your group, to staff, and the broader DLF community Set concrete goals with the group for the group Document your processes collaboratively and have an organizational system Celebrate your accomplishments & keep the ball rolling!

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