Forging a community of practice for digital library pedagogy: An update from the new Digital Library Federation Digital Library Pedagogy group

Eleanor Dickson (University of Illinois) and Elizabeth Kelly (Loyola University New Orleans) are the founders and co-chairs of the Digital Library Federation (DLF) Digital Library Pedagogy group, launched in late 2015 with the goal of building a community of practice around teaching with and about digital collections. In this post, Dickson and Kelly report on the activities of the group, sharing themes that have emerged and offering opportunities to participate in next steps.

The DLF Digital Library Pedagogy group’s founding reflects a growing interest within the DLF community in teaching with and about digital libraries. Many sessions at both the 2015 Liberal Arts Colleges Preconference and the DLF Forum in Vancouver centered on issues relating to instruction and digital libraries. Discussions surrounding these sessions prompted the formation of the group, largely through word-of-mouth after the DLF Forum. Over 150 members have joined since the group formed in December 2015.

“Digital library pedagogy” is a nebulous concept that can mean any number of things to the librarians, archivists, library school faculty, and digital humanists who have subscribed to the our email list. The initial activities of the group – two Twitter chats held in early January 2016 – were aimed at better understanding the role that the community wanted this group to play. One of our first Twitter chat prompts was: “How do you think digital library pedagogy differs from digital pedagogy?” Participants noted the importance of carrying the library’s long history of engagement with information literacy into digital realms with a focus on information over technology. As librarians we engage not only with teaching how to find resources but in the ethics of knowledge representation. The materials do matter, of course– digital archival and primary source collections are often a focus, and digital collections themselves are “examples of publishing openly.” Digital library pedagogy emphasizes exploring and examining beyond the surface by being more obvious about knowledge representation and empowering students to “no, really, THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE DOING.”

Several overarching themes emerged from the chats:

Teaching & Pedagogy

The first was, unsurprisingly, aspects of teaching and pedagogy as they relate to digital libraries. Members of the email list vary in their professional affiliations and responsibilities, but many are librarians at academic institutions who are responsible for providing information literacy and technology instruction that often fall under the umbrella of digital humanities or digital scholarship. Others are library school faculty teaching a future workforce of digital librarians. Participants wanted to learn how to teach with resources that can be found in digital libraries including digitized museum and archives/special collections material, web archives, and social media content. Additionally, Tweeters expressed an interest in teaching digital stewardship[1. An excellent discussion of the difference between digital preservation, curation, and stewardship can be found at the Library of Congress Digital Preservation blog.], the process of creating, preserving, curating, and disseminating digital materials.[2.Especially appropriate as the DLF is now the host of the National Digital Stewardship Alliance (NDSA).]  Finally, the group mentioned the importance of digital library teaching resources that speak to diversity and inclusivity. As archivists and librarians work to acknowledge the role that bias plays in how we collect, preserve, and describe collections, we must consider how these biases are reflected and addressed in library instruction.

Resource Sharing & Skills Development

To better support teaching, the Digital Library Pedagogy group would like to engage in resource sharing and professional skills development. Ideas for sharing resources included the creation of a lesson plan or sample assignments “cookbook,” as well as class sharing or co-teaching, an exciting possibility for librarians and faculty with limited instructional opportunities interested in gaining experience in the classroom and receiving mentorship from more experienced practitioners. Group members need opportunities and support for developing professional skills. These could take the form of tutorials, webinars, workshops for learning how to use particular tools, developing lesson plans, and evaluating instruction.


Finally, there is a need for best practices for outreach and collaboration. Library instruction and digital humanities/digital scholarship projects are often partnerships between librarians, archivists, teaching faculty, technologists, students, and others. How do successful collaborators initially make connections, and how do they maintain those connections? How can those who successfully cooperate with colleagues both inside and outside of their institution impart that knowledge and expertise to others?

Subgroups are currently forming around these three concepts. Those interested in joining a subgroup can add their name to a sign-up list, and be sure to join the Google group for up-to-date information. You can read more about the most recent Twitter chats in either the spreadsheet or Storyfied versions. Our next Twitter chat will be Tuesday, July 12 at 2PM and 8PM EST using the hashtag #DLFteach, and you can follow us at @ElizabethJelly and @EllieDickson. The full schedule of future Twitter chats is posted on the Digital Library Pedagogy webpage.

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Eleanor Dickson

Eleanor Dickson is the Visiting HathiTrust Research Center Digital Humanities Specialist at the University of Illinois. She supports outreach and training for the HathiTrust Research Center, as well as local digital humanities research at Illinois.

Elizabeth Kelly

Elizabeth Joan Kelly is the Digital Initiatives Librarian at Loyola University New Orleans. She holds a Master’s degree in Music Composition from the Cleveland Institute of Music as well as a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science from Florida State University. She coordinates digitization activities in Special Collections & Archives at the Monroe Library where she also serves as the library liaison to the Honors, Mass Communication, and Music Industry programs. Elizabeth is a Certified Archivist (Academy of Certified Archivists) and a Digital Archives Specialist (Society of American Archivists).