Library leaders reflect on 2023 Knight Library Conference

By DPLA, March 15, 2023.

Late last month, we had the pleasure of working with Knight Foundation to bring together 50 library leaders from across the country. Our conversations focused on how libraries are meeting the needs of this moment in our history and the evolving and essential role libraries play in our communities and our nation at large. We will extend this conversation at our Open Board + Community Meeting on April 10, 2023, at 2p ET; this meeting is open to all and we invite you to join us. In the meantime, we asked several of our colleagues to share their reflections on and takeaways from last month’s gathering with us:

It was terrific to be included in the Knight Library Conference and learn about new developments and critical issues from national and global leaders in the public library field, as well as local library leaders from across the country. At the Community Foundation, we know we can count on the partnership of Lexington Public Library as we work to create a more informed, engaged and equitable community. – Lisa Adkins, JD, President/CEO, Blue Grass Community Foundation

While I have worked in the cultural sector for two decades, I am relatively new to the library space, which is why the opportunity to attend the Knight conference was especially significant for me. Meeting and hearing from colleagues at institutions from across the country helped me to better understand the challenges and opportunities we face in this sector. I feel honored to have been included and to share some insight into what I continue to think is one of my primary responsibilities–the well-being of my team. I look forward to participating more with this community of leaders in the future. Joy Bivins, Director, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Public libraries hold great power in shaping the lives of people they serve. To be most effective, public libraries must understand the particular kinds of power they hold. One kind of power that animates all libraries is the power of memory. In The Hidden Wound, Wendell Berry observes, “if memory is in a way the ancestor of consciousness, it yet remains dynamic within consciousness.” Personal and cultural memory holds the past AND is a dynamic force shaping our present and future, just like libraries. DPLA’s mission to maximize access to our shared history, culture, and knowledge speaks directly to the power of memory. Many of the conversations at the Knight Foundation Library Conference explored memory, and the role of libraries in holding and wielding this unique form of power. I’m grateful to have been a part of these conversations and look forward to continuing them.Cindy Chadwick, Ph.D., County Librarian, Alameda County Library

When I got the invitation to attend the Knight Libraries Conference, it was an easy “Yes.” Having attended in 2020, I knew what a rich experience it was for me as a new public library director. The opportunity to learn from—and discuss challenges with—titans who have been at this work much longer than I was invaluable. I came home feeling renewed in my belief that public libraries have a unique opportunity (and responsibility) to help our communities come together and heal after years of collective trauma. The Knight Libraries Conference gave us space to collectively celebrate how our libraries contribute to building strong communities and speculate how we can be even better at what we do for our communities. Jason Kucsma, Executive Director/Fiscal Officer, Toledo Lucas County Public Library

 I left Miami absolutely inspired to do everything I can to support libraries, especially in these times when access is being restricted in so many places. I came away with an even clearer understanding of how important it is for libraries, as they strive to provide the greatest possible access, to improve the return in terms of circulation and impact on the investments they make in digital collections. I am pleased by many participants’ positive responses to The Palace Project, and I plan to work with the Palace team to better explain and document how partner libraries can use Palace to take greater control of their collections to better serve their communities.Micah May, Director of Ebook Services, DPLA, Colorado

Libraries are vital to accessing knowledge and connecting communities to resources. We are able to foster an authentic record of knowledge created and accumulated by past and current generations. By making these resources available to everyone, we are able to support an equitable approach to literacy, education and history, ensuring all are able to access the necessary information to participate and thrive in our communities. It was certainly a pleasure to engage in conversations and learn from so many amazing experts in this library space. The conference demonstrated our unified journey as we continue to develop and hone our services to better serve all people for years to come.Priscilla Suero, MBA, First Deputy Director, Free Library of Philadelphia

DPLA sends our thanks to George Martinez, Robin Reiter, Charles Thomas, Yendi Valdez, and everyone at Knight Foundation for their continuing support of libraries and of DPLA’s work.