2014 DLF Forum: Atlanta, GA

This past week, I found oodles of inspiration and imagination at the 2014 Digital Library Federation Forum in Atlanta, GA.

Per their website, "The DLF program serves its parent organization, the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) as the place where strategy informs practice. ... The Digital Library Federation is a robust and diverse community of practitioners who advance research, teaching and learning through the application of digital library research, technology and services. DLF serves as a resource and catalyst for collaboration among digital library developers, project managers, and all who are invested in digital library issues."

As an archivist who hasn't made many rounds in the library conference junket, this was a new experience for me.  I was encouraged at the number of friendly faces that I saw, yet still challenged to meet new people, expand my network of colleagues, and think outside of the (Hollinger Metal Edge) box.

My first observation is the significant cross over between those with software development and librarian skills.  It was a little intimidating, as my technical expertise is more as the "Configuring Admin User" and not the "Power Programmer Developer."  As in, I know that Solr is the indexing engine that provide search results in Islandora and ArchivesSpace.  But, I don't really know how it gets packed in with other software, how I can manipulate it to do other things, or what its limitations or advantages are.  It was hard to not feel as though I really need to learn all of the specifics in order to be a good curator and preserver of digital files.

In the keynote address, Bethany Nowviskie gave me tons of brain food to chew on.  Specifically, she mentions how librarians are caught between being Generalists and, at the same time, Experts.

In today's archivist/librarian psyche, we're becoming more and more specialized.  Archives Collections Specialist, Digital Content Specialist, Manuscripts Librarian, Audiovisual Archivist, Access and Outreach Archivist, Imaging Services Specialist, Photo Archivist/Curator, Digital Library Research Archivist... These are all titles of recent job ads, as curated by the lovely Meredith Lowe on ArchivesGig.  In a profession where we are being ushered into such specializations, how do we create AND maintain an understanding of the bigger picture?  How can we provide constructive and well-defined commentary of the profession?  How can we stay on top of global trends, if we are still debating whether or not to recommend patrons wearing white gloves?

This whole conference was a way for me to really re-orient myself to the larger library community by stepping back and remembering the basic tenets of librarianship.  And, since my new role at Denison University as University Archivist and Special Collections Librarian encompasses a more Generalist approach, attending DLF was a great way to get my head in the right space.

I haven't had a professional blog before where I shared my opinions, thoughts, and experiences within the profession (despite thinking at least once a week, "Oh, that would make a great blog post.").  I look forward to using this space to reflect on professional observations and also to test out new ideas. In closing, I'd like to share a piece of Bonnie Tijerina's closing keynote speech from DLF:
For the dreamers, the creators: remember that you have the power to build the future of librarianship and quite possibly the future of the web as we know it with every little thing you create that didn't exist before.

This is your golden age for the taking.  We can keep doing what we’re doing in libraries (and there’s a lot we should keep doing) or we can seize this time.  We can do many things as individuals and I encourage those creators and visionaries to keep doing that.  But, I do honestly believe that what is required is a collective decision to thrust ourselves into the places we need to be, the places where we have been asked to be, and the places where we are an unexpected and necessary guest.

This could be our golden age.  I ask of you.  Think big, make meaningful partnerships, be where you are needed not where you may be comfortably residing, hold tight to our values, and keep doing the kick-ass work you do.

[Read Bonnie's entire keynote address- it's really, really good!]