The Quandary of the Library Cake

Eugenia Kim
Eugenia Kim

This Forum Report was provided by Eugenia Kim, Digital Archivist, Emerson College & a 2013 ARL/DLF Underrepresented Groups Fellow.

Icing on the cake. Beautiful to see and delicious to eat, icing is great to have but they are not essential the way the actual cake layers are. That is how I feel like most of the archives and library world view both diversity and digital initiatives. Both are nice – and essential – to have for any organization, yet somehow they are seen as separate from daily operations. So when I saw that both the DLF Forum and Taiga 9 Forum were taking place back to back in the same city, it seemed like a golden opportunity to learn about how to make the “icing” part of the proverbial “cake.”

Diversity and digital initiatives are important to me because without the efforts put forth by others, I would not be in this profession. I entered library school to seek answers about why scholars couldn’t always get to primary sources online in a digital format. I owe a lot of my work experience, professional network, and even tuition support to various diversity programs. And in the course of thinking about how to improve diversity in the academic library profession and make better use of digital technology, I am slowly developing a professional identity.

The trends that struck me most during both the DLF and Taiga 9 Forums were how close-knit the community was and how after so many years, that everyone was still working on the same technical issues. I think that it is worth noting that the most difficult questions to answer were how to prove that a digital service is a vital service, the return on investment to an academic institution’s administration, what to do when all the soft money runs out…none of these questions are technological in nature but without an administrative framework in place, the technical infrastructure cannot exist.

It is also difficult to increase the diversity of thought within this community when newcomers to the field have few opportunities to break in without attending a multitude of conferences. It is to the credit of the Forum attendees that they used Twitter and Google Docs so effectively to enable anyone anywhere to follow events in real time. The exchange of information about the various conferences individuals had attended also added value to the overall experience.

While I was unable to answer my questions of how to integrate diversity and digital initiatives seamlessly into an institution’s mission, I did gather a lot of food for thought. The DLF Forum may prove to be both an excellent entry point for emerging professionals to gain exposure to a wealth of knowledge as well as an arena to hammer away at questions until they are indeed solved. For those reasons I am grateful to ARL and CLIR for enabling me to attend the 2013 events and definitely look forward to next year’s Forum.