DPLA members reflect on our annual meeting

By Shaneé Yvette Willis, May 14, 2021.
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Dear Friends of DPLA,

Thank you to everyone who joined us on Wednesday for our 2021 Members Meeting around building inclusion in a digital world and our network’s IDEAS (inclusion, diversity, equity, access, and social justice) work. We so enjoyed re-connecting with all of you and learning about your efforts to turn the corner from talking about equity and inclusion to actually determining what that means to every aspect of our work, from search and discovery to metadata to partnerships. We were inspired by your energy, enthusiasm, and thoughtfulness about the path ahead of us.

I hope many of you will take part in our upcoming Network Brown Bag, on May 27th at 1pm ET, during which we will continue the conversation we started on Wednesday about Algorithms and Justice. You can RSVP for that meeting here.

I’m also proud to share with you these reflections on the day from members of our community. Thank you to Keila, Sarah, and Ross for sharing their thoughts, and a big thank you to my fellow Planning Committee members, Tara Carlisle, Jen Johnson, Cecily Marcus, Kinza Masood, Penelope Shumaker, and Keila Zayas-Ruiz, for all their work to organize such a rich and rewarding day.

See you soon,


DPLA 2021 Member’s Day provided a lens into the reckoning that is reframing the work of cultural heritage institutions, libraries, and archives across the country. How do we accurately represent our nation’s history and its peoples and decenter the narrow perspectives that have dominated our work for so long? The sessions at Member’s Day provided a forum for members to confront how our descriptive practices have misrepresented and erased women, BIPOC, and other marginalized and minoritized people. The day’s program also provided an opportunity to demonstrate how we are working to rectify these injustices through examples showcased during afternoon panel and breakout sessions. These included organization shifts in DEI priorities, reciprocal partnerships with Indigenous communities, critical examination of local metadata, regional training and discussions for conscientious professional competencies, and the development of curation tools at DPLA to better highlight previously hidden stories. The layers of work ahead will include organizational, regional, and national efforts.This work is challenging, labor intensive, and time consuming, but it is essential to ensure that justice and truth are seen.

-Keila Zayas-Ruiz, Sunshine State Digital Network Coordinator, 2021 NC Co-Chair

The DPLA Members meeting, though virtual, was immediately inviting through the efforts of the organizers to encourage the attendees to converse and ask questions in a meeting format rather than a webinar format. The day’s conversation touched on timely and necessary topics related to the role libraries, digital collections, and cultural heritage institutions play in the equity, access, and discoverability of digital resources. I deeply appreciated the theme: Ideas: Building Inclusion in a Digital Age and the opportunity to have frank and honest conversations around the need to make collaborative systemic change in how we work with and even think about the historical digital record. Elaine Westbrooks, University Librarian and Vice Provost of University Libraries, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and DPLA Board Member in the opening remarks, set the stage of the meeting, inviting us to be courageous, develop our values and conviction, and set our minds towards the critical role we play in removing barriers and interrogating systems that will move cultural heritage institutions and digital resources towards a more inclusive and collaborative place.

The casual nature of the conversation, questions, and connections with the hubs across the country was a nice highlight. It was great to see the work being done around producing better descriptions and improving the access and representation of these digital collections through the DPLA hubs. Finally, the group activities tied together some of the main concepts of the meeting, including how to re-think description, metadata, and the inclusivity or lack thereof in the terms libraries and institutions use to represent digital collections online. It’s past time we reconcile with the antiquated and often harmful traditional methods used to collect, describe, and display resources and develop new methods, learning to center a broad and deep community of users with respect to those individual communities. I look forward to the future of DPLA, along with the profession as a whole. It is meetings and conversations like this that are needed in order to create industry-wide change.

Sarah Tanner, Head, Archives Research Center, Atlanta University Center, Robert W. Woodruff Library (Black Women’s Suffrage Collection Partner)

This was my very first DPLA Members Meeting, and as a partner in the newly established (and going-live-very-soon) Northwest Digital Heritage service hub (a partnership of the Washington State Library, the Oregon Heritage Commission, and the State Library of Oregon) I’m thrilled to be a part of a robust community of member organizations doing such critical, necessary, and thoughtful work around cultural heritage collections.

In her welcoming message to us, DPLA Board member Elaine Westbrooks reminded us that our work is a direct expression of our values – something worthy of continual (re)consideration – and that by actively and courageously engaging in inclusive and anti-racist practices, we ultimately labor to support truth, democracy, and the liberation of humanity through education.

Many members had a chance to share about the great work they’re engaging with in their home states and regions, and a few that I can’t wait to explore in more depth are:

  • Connecticut Digital Archive’s CTDA in Context – exploring long-standing assumptions about what constitutes a “memory institution,” and what groups have historically not been invited to the table
  • North Carolina Digital Heritage Center – re-examining metadata practices with a focus on equity in the contexts of gender, race, and culture
  • University of Wisconsin Milwaukee Libraries & the Digital Library of Georgia – both are implementing holistic (and inspiring) reviews of their work with an emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion

The initiatives and projects the DPLA and their partners reported on which I’m most excited to tell Oregon organizations about are:

  • Rights Statements faceting, the WikiMedia Commons readiness tools, and machine-readable rights statements integration with third-party platforms
  • New curation and aggregation-as-a-service tools in development

As we prepare to launch our new regional service hub in the Pacific Northwest, I’m inspired by all the incredible perspectives, energy, and work shared by our fellow members. Thanks DPLA for bringing us all together and making it easy to learn from each other.

-Ross Fuqua, Data & Digital Projects Consultant, State Library of Oregon (New Hub)