Number 134 March/April 2020
ISSN 1944-7639 (online version)
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Of late we have been understandably immersed in the current moment. The COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented in our lifetime, a disruptive force that is unnerving in that it is both inexorable and unpredictable, a silent threat that becomes visible only through the consequence of its often-lethal abrading, physically and psychologically, of our human fabric. It will influence our society, our politics, and our culture for many years to come; it is already demanding profound alterations in the way we see ourselves in the world and how we see the world itself.
A natural pathogen, the virus will be contained in time. As the air clears in a figurative and literal sense, we will begin to understand what has transpired and collectively explore methods and means to address the disruption and to work together to mitigate future calamity and loss. For over 60 years, CLIR’s programs have received wide support because they bring coherence, predictability, and stability to the working environment of higher education and cultural institutions. CLIR has accomplished this by building communities of practice and encouraging interdependence, by funding practical strategies and systemic thinking for new challenges, and by promoting the development of thoughtful, ethical policies that encourage the respectful acknowledgement of many voices. This is illustrated by examples of recent and emerging work.
Many of CLIR’s projects are managed to construct and maintain communities of practice and promote interdependencies.
- Building cultural networks. We reach across GLAM communities to encourage wider accessibility to and more sophisticated use of our cultural heritage, broadly defined. Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives is a salient example, which we hope to enlarge upon post-crisis.
- Providing safe spaces for storytelling. This nascent project will provide the cultural heritage, academic, and professional communities with a safe space for sharing experiences, obstacles, and ideas through personal narratives and group discussion to create transformative solutions for the empowerment of all, and will serve as an anonymized archive for ideas and proposals to strengthen professional culture post-crisis. In recent weeks, we have launched a blog series, “COVID Re(Collections).”
- Working with marginalized communities that are often more decisively threatened. We will continue our partnership with the HBCU Library Alliance and seek funds that will support cataloging and digitizing content critical to a more sophisticated understanding of our national history. Outreach is also under way to several indigenous peoples organizations across North America.
- Engaging interdisciplinary communities to work on wickedly complex challenges. The global digital library Pangia is an example of community-building at scale. The Digital Library Federation and its Forum will remain a major national platform for the exchange of ideas and innovative technologies in support of accessible, well curated, and reusable data pertinent to climate change, epidemiology, and other topics.
Developing practical strategies and systemic thinking for new challenges
Programs in this category inculcate the importance of system thinking and whole-greater-than-the-parts envisioning.
- Building knowledge systems. Developing technical platforms that explicitly allow the federation and cost-effective and efficient aggregation of open content. The Digital Library of the Middle East (DLME) epitomizes system thinking at a global scale.
- Advocating and constructing sustainable models for essential digital resources. This includes the large digital library projects, and a new effort we are working on with ACLS, NEH, and the Mellon Foundation to explore new infrastructures and funding models to maintain information content over time, as much of essential academic knowledge today is fragile and susceptible to loss.
- Advocating for and implementing projects that are international and global in scope and participation. CLIR Global is leading the development of new partnerships and projects across the planet. Our affiliates exemplify these priorities: IIIF, IIPC, Open Repositories, JISC.
- Working to mitigate threats to our cultural heritage, whether natural threats or anthropogenic ones. The DLME and Pangia are exemplary of this, as is Recordings at Risk.
- Developing online descriptive and educational resources to more broadly communicate with our constituency and the world, as we become a teaching resource. The DLF Digital Library Pedagogy Working Group is an example. CLIR is also working with selected Postdoctoral Fellows in Data Curation, a unique cohort of expertise, to envision a new curriculum focused on data access and sustainability.
Promoting the implementation of thoughtful, ethical policies and procedures at institutions
- The Leading Change Institute trains professional librarians and information technologists for advanced leadership within their institutions and professional circles, promoting policies that enhance the workplace through thoughtful, ethical application, encouraging innovative solutions, and a more encompassing understanding of higher education.
- The DLF Working Groups, which include Records Transparency, Privacy and Ethics in Technology, and the Committee for Equity and Inclusion, continually assess the educational workplace, articulating policies and procedures in service to a just and equitable society.
On these foundations, we will continue and enhance our programs in service to rebuilding communication, infrastructure, policies, and practices for our constituencies as the crisis resolves, as it now falls to us to compose a different future. While we will retain some recognizable aspects of our traditional ways of doing business, we will also identify new models of service provision, funding, and functional dependencies. Later this year, CLIR, with selected partner institutions, will convene an interdisciplinary international task force with diverse institutional representation that will register the changes and challenges experienced during the pandemic, explore means and methods of addressing these challenges, and recommend specific responses to a world undreamed of a short time ago. From this, fresh affordances will be identified to help us interact with a much-altered environment, though an environment that, by working together, we can imbue with inclusive accommodation and promise.
All of CLIR’s projects and programs exemplify the belief that open, accessible, and well-organized knowledge is a human right. This is a core principle that animates our resolve and confers the proposition that we are joined as a common humanity.
Charles Henry Elected to American Academy of Arts & Sciences
CLIR President Charles Henry has been elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, among the world’s preeminent learned societies of scholars, scientists, and artists.
The academy was founded in 1780 by John Adams, John Hancock, and others who believed that the new republic should honor exceptionally accomplished individuals and engage them in advancing the public good.
Henry has served as CLIR president since 2007, after having served for a decade as university librarian at Rice University. His work has focused on a variety of topics in higher education, including the evolution of humanities in a digital era, the organization of information and its support of teaching and research, the concept of the library, and the idea of coherence at scale for higher education in the United States. Most recently, he has been working with partners internationally to instantiate a truly global digital library.
Charles Henry received a B.A. in philosophy and humanities from Northwest Missouri State University and earned his master’s and Ph.D. degrees from Columbia University. He was the recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship to Vienna, Austria, and received Fulbright Senior Scholar grants to New Zealand and China.
“Current Academy members represent today’s innovative thinkers in every field and profession, including more than two hundred and fifty Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners,” notes the American Academy announcement. “The new members join the company of Academy members elected before them, including Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton in the eighteenth century; Ralph Waldo Emerson and Maria Mitchell in the nineteenth; Robert Frost, Martha Graham, Margaret Mead, Milton Friedman, and Martin Luther King, Jr. in the twentieth; and—in the past two decades—Antonin Scalia, Michael Bloomberg, John Lithgow, Judy Woodruff, and Bryan Stevenson.”
DLF Program Review Forthcoming; Join us for Webinar May 20
The results of a yearlong program review of the Digital Library Federation (DLF) will be made public by mid-May. Commissioned last year after the departure of former DLF director Bethany Nowviskie, the review was undertaken to guide planning for the Federation, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.
Joanne Kossuth, founding director of 1MountainRoad consultancy, conducted the review throughout 2019, drawing on interviews with CLIR and DLF staff, representatives of member institutions, DLF advisory committee and working group members, and Forum participants. Her findings focus on three areas: community perception of the DLF program, how and where increased collaboration among DLF and other CLIR programs is desirable, and how the program can evolve to best meet current and future needs.
The report will be made available in mid-May and announced through our listservs and social media. We invite you to join us for a webinar on Wednesday, May 20, at 3 pm ET, in which Kossuth will present her findings and answer questions. Register here.
DLF Working Group Updates
DLF’s 12 working groups offer a way for our committed community to work together from within and beyond DLF’s institutional membership; anyone interested is encouraged to get involved! Here is some recent activity:
- The Born-Digital Access Working Group’s Access Practices subgroup recently finalized their research and published “Collecting User Experiences, Needs, and Desires for Accessing Born-Digital Archival Collections: Survey Analysis.” The goal of the project was to measure user perceptions of and experience with accessing born-digital archival material to inform improvements in existing access workflows and provide insight into new workflows.
- DLF’s Technologies of Surveillance Working Group recently updated its name and is now known as the Privacy and Ethics in Technology Working Group. The group also recently welcomed new co-convener Michelle Gibeault, who will serve from 2020-2022. Keep updated with this working group on their wiki.
- The User Experience (UX) subgroup of DLF’s Assessment Interest Group is working on a crowdsourced Remote UX work document. For more information about this subgroup or to contribute to this document, check out the UX Working Group’s OSF repository.
CLIR Launches “COVID (Re)Collections” Blog Series
COVID (Re)Collections is a new series from CLIR exploring responses to the COVID-19 pandemic by the library, cultural heritage, and information community. You can access these stories here.
We are interested in the challenges COVID-19 has posed to you or your workplace, and how you are responding to them. How has the situation affected your colleagues, students, researchers, and the other communities you support? How has the pandemic caused you to view and approach your work differently? What do you think is the lasting impact of COVID-19 on the field and on you as an individual? What are the responsibilities of cultural heritage and information workers now and moving forward?
By collecting these stories, we hope to further the conversation on how our field is responding to this historic challenge. We aim to create a platform for individuals and institutions to process and share their experiences—to help us support each other as we collectively adapt, grieve, and regrow.
If you are interested in volunteering a short piece, fill out this form. CLIR accepts stories in a variety of formats including but not limited to blog posts, videos, audio files, and images. Blog posts and other writing should be 400-800 words; video and audio files should be under 3 minutes. You can also volunteer to be interviewed about your experience by a CLIR staff member—we recognize that not everyone has the capacity to submit a polished piece at this moment in time. After completing the form, staff will be in touch to discuss your proposed piece. Questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next Round of Recordings at Risk Awards to Open in November
The next cycle of funding for Recordings at Risk awards will open November 2, 2020. Originally scheduled to open this spring, COVID-19 related closures have affected the field, and the delay will allow for recovery of both potential applicants and qualified digitization services providers. Significant changes to the program’s guidelines are not expected, so applicants may choose to use the Cycle 7 guidelines and template to begin drafting proposals. Updated materials will be posted to the Applicant Resources page in conjunction with the next call for applications.
Community Survey: DLF Forum and COVID-19
We realize that there is a great deal of uncertainty surrounding your plans to attend the 2020 DLF Forum as a result of COVID-19 closures. We are taking these disruptions into consideration as we plan for this year’s DLF Forum and affiliated events, and we would love to hear from you by May 11 via this short survey.
Reminder: DLF Forum CFP Deadline is May 11!
The deadline for submitting your proposal for the 2020 DLF Forum, Learn@DLF, NDSA’s Digital Preservation, and CLIR’s Digitizing Hidden Collections Symposium is less than two weeks away! While our current intention is to hold the DLF Forum and affiliated events as scheduled in Baltimore this November, we are carefully monitoring the situation and will promptly announce any change in plans.