Community Reps: A Handy Guide to Who They Are and What They Are Doing

Posted by Franky Abbott in April 28, 2014.

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As the application deadline for the second class of Community Reps approaches (Wednesday April 30, 2014), we think it’s time to show some appreciation for our first class of reps (who will continue to serve) and all the hard work they’ve been doing. We also hope to answer some questions we’ve been getting about who they are, what they do for DPLA, and why the reps program is important.

Who They Are

The one thing all Community Reps have in common is a belief in DPLA’s open mission of providing public access to cultural heritage content.  The first class of about 100 reps comes from 36 states and 2 international countries as well as a range of professional backgrounds including state libraries, public libraries, K-12 schools, colleges and universities, and technology, library, publishing, media, and genealogical organizations. This geographic and professional diversity is very important for DPLA’s reach since reps are tasked with engaging their communities and providing feedback. Most often, work as a rep is a natural extension of projects they are already doing with peers, patrons, and students, roles they already play in organizations, or professional interests they already have. A few brave reps do venture into communities outside their professional sphere.

What They Do

The formal requirements of the Reps program are minimal: attend an introductory webinar, communicate via email with a DPLA staff member, plan one outreach event in a calendar year, and give DPLA meaningful feedback on that event. Many of the reps in our first class have gone above and beyond these requirements by offering more than one event or providing other kinds of outreach work for DPLA in addition to an event.

Event-Based Outreach

The first class of Community Reps has already organized approximately 45 events across the country since January 2014. These include:

  • workshops with district librarians to integrate DPLA into existing school projects
  • workshops with teachers to plan classroom activities using DPLA
  • classroom activities with students in higher ed and K-12
  • webinars for state and public library professionals across the state
  • presentations for professional organizations
  • podcasts on DPLA
  • presentations for relevant interest and discussion groups
  • information tables at conferences
  • hackathons for local, state, and national participants
  • presentations within their departments and teams
  • presentations for library patrons
  • introductory presentations for other local organizations like historical societies and genealogy groups
  • brown bag discussion sessions about DPLA and other open resources
  • wikipedia edit-a-thons that use DPLA as a source
  • national conference panels and presentations
  • conference poster sessions
  • scavenger hunts with DPLA to teach searching and browsing

DPLA provides resources for outreach–swag, slide decks, other sample presentations–but the reps are also creating new approaches and sharing them with each other and DPLA staff.

Other Kinds of Community Engagement

In addition to formal events, Community Reps work on community engagement for DPLA in other meaningful ways, by:

  • creating new avenues for social media engagement
  • writing guest posts for the DPLA blog about their experiences
  • helping DPLA publicize and network news and resources like the DPLA search widget
  • building outreach resources: a glossary for the DPLA website, guides to hackathon planning, teaching guides based on standards, and libguides
  • participating in a reps focus group such as the teaching group which gives DPLA feedback on and ideas for future education resources
  • helping DPLA staff get to know professional communities, such as genealogists, better by being a resource for questions, tips, and feedback
  • doing general, casual evangelizing within their existing world of peers, students, department, institutions, professional organizations about DPLA

Why the Reps program?

DPLA has always been a social project as much as a technical one, with broad community involvement starting during the planning phase. The Reps program extends that emphasis on community engagement and makes advocacy and outreach for the project stronger and more structured than it could be with just a staff of seven. It offers one avenue for fans of DPLA to get involved with the project and do critical outreach work to spread the word to new communities and help us improve the project.


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