Ten questions we’ll be asking in Denver

By John Bracken, February 8, 2018.
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We have made our plans for ALA Midwinter this weekend. On Saturday, I’ll be sharing my thoughts after two months on the job, and then will seek help in exploring some of the questions before us.

The first thing I’ve learned in this job is the degree to which the DPLA is valued by others in the field. I had a sense of that two months ago, but that’s been affirmed after having 60 external conversations. This buy-in from others presents us with the opportunity to be not just an ally, but a convenor, platform, and accelerant for others in the field. More broadly, in a time of deep and growing distrust of institutions, libraries are being called upon to help restore the strained civic fabric. At a time of doubt about the validity of informationdoubt about the very definition of what “facts” arelibraries are needed now more than ever to educate, inform, and empower Americans in new ways.

After sharing what I’ve heard in my first 60 days, I’ll look to involve you (if you attend) and other attendees in exploring some of the questions on our minds this year. To help you prepare, here are some of them:

  1. What is the role for libraries in countering online mis- and dis-information?
  2. What is our role in ensuring that the archival materials we all are collecting and highlighting are relevant for contemporary discussions? (I shared thoughts on this topic last week.)
  3. How would we construct a virtual library if we were starting from scratch?
  4. How should we re-imagine the physical library as we shift from handling analog materials to digital ones?
  5. How can we better understand the implications of living so much of our lives on, and providing so much of our data to, privately-owned networks?
  6. Is the shift to digital material and platforms changing the ways in which we learn?
  7. How can we use in-person engagements to make digital resources more accessible and relevant?
  8. How can we ensure that the opportunities of the digital age are as accessible to marginalized communities, including rural America, as they are to everyone else?
  9. How can the Digital Public Library of America contribute to efforts to advance diversity and inclusion in librarianship?
  10. How can the DPLA more effectively support the work of others in the field?

On Saturday afternoon, we’ll craft and explore 3-4 more focused questions out of those broad themes. (We’ll approach these questions using the brainstorming principles of deferring judgement and getting as many, and as far-out-there, ideas as possible.)

Do do you have any answers to the questions above, or your own questions you think we should explore? If so, please share them with @dpla or @jsb, email me at bracken@dp.la, or join us Saturday, 1:00-2:30 p.m.; in Rooms 501-02 at the Colorado Convention Center.