Partner Perspectives from the Members Meeting

By DPLA, April 4, 2018.
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One of the core goals for the new membership program is to strengthen our partnerships and give our Hubs more of a voice within our partner network and on our work at DPLA, so we are excited to share perspectives on our recent meeting directly from some of our members. Their enthusiasm for the opportunities ahead within the network, thoughts on transition and community, and suggestions for making the meeting even more interactive help capture the experience and inform our future work.

The reflections below represent an established Service Hub (Recollection Wisconsin), new Service Hub (District Digital), and a longtime Content Hub (NARA). We’re very grateful to guest authors Emily Pfotenhauer, Lauren Algee, and Pamela Wright for sharing their insights on the meeting.

Reinvigorating local partnerships through national networking

By Emily Pfotenhauer, Recollection Wisconsin Program Manager, Wisconsin Library Services (WiLS)

I enjoyed seeing lots of new faces—and many familiar ones—at the DPLA Members Meeting this year. At every DPLA event, I love seeing the network map get a little more orange.  

The two-day meeting in Atlanta included a full day of updates and Q&A—from DPLA staff, from the new Network and Advisory Councils, and from the Hubs themselves. I appreciate the steps the DPLA team has taken in the past year to make the work they do “behind the scenes” more visible to the Network, especially as ingest tools and processes have evolved. As a member of the Advisory Council, I was excited to see such a positive response to the topical working groups we worked with the Network Council to define. These five working groups will tackle issues in the areas of assessment, outreach, metadata, rights statements, and technical capacity. The new working groups are an exciting opportunity for Hubs and their partners to play a central role in the development of new tools and resources that will benefit the entire Network.

Our collaborative program, Recollection Wisconsin, was in place long before DPLA launched, but our partnership with DPLA has reinvigorated the work we do in our state. Joining the DPLA Member Network brought new stakeholders into the program, rejuvenated some longstanding institutional partnerships, and has helped us make the case for new grant funding. In the coming year, our Service Hub partners will be watching the work of the Assessment and Outreach working groups in particular, as they point towards new ways of understanding how our collections are used and new strategies to help develop our audiences.

DPLA Member Meeting Group Discussion

DPLA staff and Member Hub representatives share challenges and exchange ideas at the 2018 Members Meeting.

A Promising Beginning for the Membership Community

By Lauren Algee, Digital Curation Librarian, DC Public Library, of District Digital

I attended the first annual DPLA Network Members Meeting as the Network Council representative for District Digital, one of DPLA’s newest Service Hubs, formed by DC Public Library and the Washington Research Library Consortium to aggregate content from cultural heritage institutions in the Washington D.C. region. So new, in fact, that our content is not yet live in DPLA, though it should be in the next month or so, the result of over two years of planning and partnership, infrastructure, and governance building.

I left the Members Meeting inspired and pleased that District Digital is joining at a time of transformation in which DPLA and its members are centering community.  A year ago I attended the Hubs Day at DPLAfest 2017, and at that time the organization was looking for a new Executive Director, had not yet finalized the membership model, was dealing with an ingest bottleneck (though Ingest 3 was in the works), and faced many questions from hubs about how to show DPLA’s impact. This year Executive Director John Bracken opened the meeting on his 100th day of work with a strong statement of DPLA’s investment in and responsibility to its also new-ish member network, stating emphatically that if the member network doesn’t succeed, DPLA doesn’t succeed. Updates on the formation of Network Council working groups, Ingest 3 implementation (which reduces data load time from days to minutes), and an analytics dashboard for hubs all addressed stress points for hubs from last year.  Further, reports on projects like IIIF implementation,, and a planning grant investigating how DPLA can preserve and provide access to newspapers from historically marginalized groups, show DPLA working to have an impact beyond its own community.

I keep searching for synonyms for “community,” but it’s hard to think of a better one to describe the welcoming DPLA staff and hub representatives at the meeting. As a public library employee it is a rare and wonderful experience to attend a gathering centering the vital archival work happening at public libraries, historical societies, and local museums, as well as at government libraries and academic institutions. In all of the conversations I had in and out of formal meeting sessions it was clear that no matter how large or how old our institutions or hubs are, we are all grappling with the same challenges and are there to share with and support each other. There is true investment in helping and cheerleading each other to build something together through and beyond the network. Thanks to the DPLA team and my fellow attendees for a wonderful two days and a promising beginning.

Member Hub representatives during first day of DPLA Members Meeting 2018

Participants gather for the first day of sessions at the Members Meeting.

Addressing Common Challenges and Finding Solutions

By Pamela Wright, Chief Innovation Officer, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)

Both Jason Clingerman, Digital Public Access Branch Chief at the National Archives, and I enjoyed the meeting a great deal and we were glad to have the opportunity to meet staff from fellow DPLA member hubs. Kelcy Shepherd’s energy, warmth, and positivity really made the whole meeting work well. I was also glad to chat with Michele Kimpton and the rest of the DPLA staff; it feels like DPLA is on track and has a great team in place.

On the first day of the Members Meeting, we got an overview of the structure and goals of the Network Council as well as an update from DPLA staff about current projects. In my view, it was a bit too much presentation and Jason and I wished it included more interactive activities to get member input. For example, instead of presenting and then asking if anybody had questions or thoughts, it would have been great to have the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues at my table, especially since we were sitting at round tables. Also, my brain can only absorb as much as my bottom can withstand so more chances to move around, meet colleagues, and stretch would have been great.

One of the values we see in being a DPLA member is the opportunity to hear about other institutions’ technical challenges (including DPLA itself) and how they approached them. Learning about these challenges and solutions helped us consider how we could solve similar problems at NARA. We are very interested in participating in ongoing conversations and work on scalable technology as part of the member network. Additionally, engaging developers and other audiences through APIs and data visualizations is something we at NARA would like to glean from being a DPLA member. The Wednesday morning session on DPLA as Data: Collections as Data in Practice addressed this topic, but unfortunately we had to leave early.

I was also hoping to talk with DPLA and the member network about the possibility of using History Hub, a community forum for history researchers, as a digital reference platform for DPLA. Jason presented a 5-minute lightning talk that introduced History Hub as a tool for bringing together expertise from citizen historians and information professionals, but this may have been too brief a format for all we wanted to say about the possibilities for collaboration. As I said in the meeting, I think it is critical that we reach out to the public in new ways. To continue to pursue this and other goals, one of the opportunities we would be excited to explore is the chance to host future conversations with DPLA, fellow hub staffers, and others interested in this work at the National Archives Innovation Hub in Washington, D.C.

Finally, I was shocked and thrilled to meet someone from my hometown of Conrad, Montana, (population 1800) – amazing and great to see her working with DPLA! I am grateful to DPLA for hosting this great event and I look forward to working with DPLA and our fellow members going forward.