DPLAFEST and NDSR Symposium


Posted on May 4, 2017 by  

This post is brought to you by the BHL NDSR Cohort. I, Alicia, introduce our conference packed month of April. Next, Ariadne recaps our DPLAFest presentation followed by Pam’s overview of our NDSR Symposium panel discussion. Lastly, Marissa and Katie offer some feedback and reflections from our first round of presentations. The BHL NDSR Cohort are part of the "Foundations to Actions" grant led by the Enst Mayr Library.

April was a busy month for all of us residents! We attended and presented at two conferences in two different cities: first, at the 4th annual DPLAFest in Chicago and then the NDSR Symposium in Washington D.C. the following week.


L to R: Ariadne, Pam, Marissa, Katie and Alicia at DPLAFest 2017.

DPLAFest is organized by DPLA, the Digital Public Library of America, which provides free, digital materials from America’s libraries, archives, museums and cultural heritage institutions. The network of DPLA is established on a “hub” model which brings together digitized and born-digital content from across the country to a single access point. BHL serves as one of the content hubs for DPLA which means BHL content gets passed along to DPLA. Our work with BHL connected mainly to the DPLAFest themes of digital libraries and open access content and collaboration across types of institutions.

The NDSR Symposium was hosted by the National Digital Stewardship Residency to “discuss and create standardized guidelines…develop sustainability strategies, expand the geographic reach of NDSR foster a digital preservation community and raise awareness of the NDSR program.” Presentations and panels were given by NDSR residents and mentors from past and present cohorts (ourselves included). The Symposium was open to the public and potential future host institution representatives were also in attendance.

Considering the relevance of the above themes to our work and meeting fellow attendees informally was incredibly valuable. Beyond this, our presentations at these two conferences also challenged us to think in new ways, and demonstrated the support that the cohort and mentor model is designed to provide.

At DPLAfest, mentors Trish Rose-Sandler and Leora Siegel introduced BHL, NDSR, the purpose of our program and its timeline, and their roles as mentors. Next, each Resident had 7 minutes to explain their core goals, challenges, activities, and context for their work. It was an accomplishment to hone all the complexities and research we’ve conducted into pithy talks that would be clear to folks totally new to BHL and our projects. While practicing our presentation together in a study room at the Harold Washington Library, we gave and shared feedback and reduced nerves. On the day of, it was wonderful to interact with the audience (laughter, questions, and applause!) as well as speak with some attendees from the NDSR community!


Here are our slides for DPLAfest. Click the on gear icon to read though our speaker notes!

For our NDSR Symposium presentation “Building a Communication Network for Collaborative Projects,” we presented on how we communicate as a geographically dispersed cohort. This presentation was in the format of a discussion forum. Each of us briefly spoke about an aspect of our communication or collaboration, and then we had about 35 minutes to facilitate discussion with the audience. We had a great dialogue on effective communication strategies, preserving and sharing NDSR work, and staying in touch with the NDSR community beyond the residency.

One question that came up in the discussion was how much of residents’ communications strategies should be directed by NDSR Administration or by mentors and how much by residents. Many felt like as much as the residents could decide on their own the more empowered they would feel. Several of the sessions at NDSR Symposium came away with the idea that residents are learning to learn and feeling empowered to make decisions on communications is one more aspect of that concept.

Here are our slides for the NDSR Symposium. Click on the gear icon to read though our speaker notes!

The NDSR Symposium was a great complement to DPLAFest, which was more of a large-scale snapshot of projects and practices in managing digital libraries. The Symposium, by contrast, felt very meta – this was past, present, and future residents, mentors, and hosts as well as IMLS staff and other individuals involved in creating and supporting the NDSR program looking inwards on what has been done and what we want the program to become in the near future. I think that all of the residents felt comfortable being part of the conversations taking place, especially with the chances to participate in a pre-conference residents-only meeting and an NDSR evaluation meeting after the last session. Despite the inward-focus, wider themes and issues were obviously discussed, especially by the keynote speakers, who stressed the importance of human-information interaction, community-building, and participatory leadership. I left the Symposium feeling empowered to advocate for not only the NDSR Program but also the IMLS and data preservation communities as a whole.

As an early-career librarian, I found it interesting to reflect on when I feel like an authority on a subject or in a role at these conferences. While we are neither students, nor interns, nor FTEs, our positions are focused directly on the future of digital librarianship, which is also often a major theme of conferences like DPLAfest. Residents are tasked with developing sustainable projects that are forward thinking and incorporate new ideas, technologies, and methods. A large part of my day-to-day is to read and learn about what the advancements are and consider how they can be applied to BHL. Sometimes they’re bigly and impossible to implement in

L to R: Ariadne, Marissa, Katie, Alicia, Pam at NDSR Symposium, Library of Congress, 2017.

our timeframes, but we synthesize and review and write down thoughtful summaries of why it might be an indispensable technology in the near future (see Linked Open Data/RDF, IIIF and interoperability, etc.), or if it should be disregarded for specific reasons.

Despite these charges, I often find myself at conferences confused and unsure whether a question I hope to ask even makes sense. Some can chalk this up to Imposter Syndrome, but I think it might be a bit deeper than that, for me. I often truly don’t understand how something works, and I definitely don’t think that asking an uneducated question that wastes time is a good way to manage that confusion. Attending conference sessions that leave me baffled can help direct some of what I hope to learn about on my own time. Library science is a big field, and I find that directing some of my energy to learning specific new technologies that people talk about a lot is a good way for me to not get so overwhelmed. And attending conferences (okay, and re-joining Twitter) is a good way to listen to those conversations and perhaps participate in in the future.