This is a guest post from Ana Enriquez, Scholarly Communications Outreach Librarian at Penn State University.
Last month, along with several PA Digital colleagues, I attended DPLAfest 2019. Given DPLA’s reorganization of last fall, I had some hesitation about going, but I ultimately decided it would be better to be there. With one of its three tracks dedicated to ebooks, the Fest certainly illustrated DPLA’s changing direction. However, across all three tracks and in the plenary sessions and networking events, I also found that many of the values I care about remain.
As a lawyer-librarian, one of my reasons for attending was to see how colleagues across the DPLA network resolve their copyright issues and promote open licensing. I enjoyed hearing about theRights Statements Working Group and the Strong Ideas series from MIT Press and MIT Libraries.
However, much as I enjoy talking about copyright and open access, I get to do that a lot. The special thing about DPLAfest is its relatively broad scope in comparison with its relatively small size: participants can move easily from a room where they are experts to a room where they are novices. Andromeda Yelton’s machine learning session gave me the chance to step out of my usual work and learn things there were really new to me. Yelton is a spectacular speaker — if you get the chance to hear her, don’t miss it. In what I assume was a version of her ALA talk, she took us from the very basics of machine learning, to HAMLET, an application of machine learning to a library issue, through a survey of the technology’s limitations. Her talk was entertaining and memorable, and it was conscientiously designed to enable and encourage critical thinking.
After Yelton’s talk, I went to another excellent session, this time from Sophie Glidden-Lyon and Kate Philipson of the La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club Archives. They spoke about an exciting collaboration between their archives, the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theatre Research (WCFTR), and the Bay Area Video Coalition to digitize, preserve, and provide access to videos from La MaMa’s archives, some of the earliest videos of theatrical performances anywhere. They spoke of a collaboration that was built on trust but also built to be resilient and adaptable. They talked about the project’s persistence in applying for grant funding. Most of all they emphasized the creative and mutually beneficial structure of the agreement, with La MaMa retaining possession of the physical video reels and control over their use, WCFTR preserving the digital masters, and both organizations having access-level copies of the reels. DPLA is one of several ways they are promoting access to the materials. It was an excellent and inspiring session.
At this Fest, especially in the La MaMa session and some of the plenaries, it was clear to me that DPLA remains a large community of communities committed to sharing the American story. The organization, including its members and its administration, is committed to including people in that story who have historically been left out. The organizers displayed that commitment in the conference itself as well. No one gets this right all time — the conference certainly had a few wrong notes — however, they did quite a good job.
I left the conference with a renewed pride in being a librarian and increased optimism. I have to be optimistic about an organization (and a world) with such dedicated and capable people in it. I hope the conference also served as a reminder that DPLA’s strength lies in its member network and that the network’s continued involvement in governance through the Network Council and the Advisory Council is crucial to DPLA’s success.