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DLF Working Groups Respond to COVID-19: Three Questions with Gayle Schechter

Gayle Schechter is program associate for CLIR’s Digital Library Federation (DLF)

Before we get into the subject of DLF’s working groups during COVID-19, can you tell us a bit about what DLF is and what its working groups do?

The Digital Library Federation, or DLF for short, is a network made up of our member institutions along with a robust and engaged community of practice in our working groups. We’re best known for our signature event, the annual DLF Forum. Membership is open to college and university libraries, museums, and any organization engaged in building or using digital libraries. Our member institutions make the work of DLF possible, supporting our working groups’ efforts in a variety of research and development, information sharing, staff development, networking, and catalytic initiatives. However, individuals are invited to participate in DLF working groups and events regardless of institutional status. DLF serves all who are invested in the success of libraries, museums, and archives in the digital age.

DLF’s working groups tend to follow one of two models. Some of our working groups are very action-oriented and project-based (groups like DLF’s Committee for Equity & Inclusion and our Assessment Interest Group), while others have evolved into communities of support and knowledge sharing in different areas of digital library practices (like DLF’s Museums Cohort and the Metadata Support Group). DLF believes 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.

How have the working groups responded or adapted to COVID-19?

In many ways, our working groups, consisting of members from all over the world, were better prepared to respond to the challenges brought on by COVID-19 as they have long worked across institutional boundaries by utilizing our Zoom account and Google Drives, and sharing group information and projects on the DLF wiki. Having joined the ranks of DLF staff just before our 2019 Forum, the past year has shown me that the DLF community is not only resourceful and innovative, but above all compassionate and caring. The social and wellness activities created by the 2020 DLF Forum Community committee created an incredible camaraderie among attendees, despite the fact that our first-ever virtual DLF Forum meant we could not meet face-to-face and instead had to find ways to build community while apart. Outside of the DLF Forum, many of our working groups created informational webinars with presentations such as Casey Davis Kaufman’s “Working Remotely During a Global Pandemic,” hosted by our Project Managers Group, our Digital Accessibility Group’s “Inclusive Design and Accessible Exhibits: Some Guidance for Libraries, Galleries, and Museums,” from Sina Bahram (DLF’s first live-captioned webinar) and “Engaging Student Perspectives in Library Learning Analytics,” a collaboration between DLF’s Privacy and Ethics in Technology Working Group and the Data Doubles team, just to name a few.

How can someone get involved with the DLF working groups and the larger DLF community?

What I love about DLF, from a practitioner’s standpoint, is that getting involved in one (or more) of our working groups is completely free of charge. Having recently served as chair of SAA’s Students & New Archives Professional section, I’m all too aware of the fact that opportunities for professional development and networking are often accompanied by a hefty price tag, putting many of those new to the field at a significant disadvantage. When we say that DLF working groups are open to ALL, regardless of whether or not you’re affiliated with one of our member institutions, we mean it. You can learn more about our groups, including their preferred mode of communication, on the DLF website. I also recommend bookmarking DLF’s Community Calendar to keep up to date with working group meetings as well as a variety of conferences and events relevant to the DLF community. Interested in starting a new interest group or reviving an older one? Check out the DLF Organizer’s Toolkit on our wiki and contact us at We’re not big on red tape here, so joining a group is as simple as signing up for its listserv or Google Group to find out about upcoming meetings and opportunities, and DLF staff is always happy to answer any questions you have over email.

CLIR’s COVID (Re)Collections series explores responses to the COVID-19 pandemic by library, cultural heritage, and information professionals. Stories are proposed by the authors/contributors and reflect their personal experiences and perspectives at the time of submission. Learn more about the series and share your own story here.

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