Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 Fall Digital Library Federation Forum

The most recent DLF Forum occurred November 11-12 in Long Beach, CA. As others have observed, this Forum represented a departure from previous Forums. Roy Tennant, a member of the planning committee, described the Forum through one of his blog posts. Roy was one of the members of an extraordinary planning committee that demonstrated professionalism of the highest order. It was an honor for me to work with this planning group.

The Forum came at a time of transition for DLF specifically and libraries more generally. Libraries continue to grapple with budget cuts, some of which seem quite severe, that include travel restrictions or embargoes resulting in fewer attendees than previous Forums. For these reasons, the planning committee and CLIR adopted a different approach for this Forum. The theme was "Strategies for Innovation" with a subtheme of "Getting Results." The Forum provided an opportunity for reflection on lessons learned and consideration of strategies for moving forward.

Perhaps what struck me the most about this Forum was the passion, energy, and thoughtful dialogue of every participant. I can honestly say I've never attended a meeting or forum where everyone was so focused and engaged over two days without digressing into what could have been many pathways for chaos. It was a daunting challenge to organize and implement such a Forum and our community rose to this challenge. In addition to the people in the room, there was an extremely rich "back channel" conversation through Second Life and Twitter. On several occasions, the Forum participants in the room found ourselves responding to comments from our colleagues who participated from afar.

While there were many worthwhile observations, we tried to encapsulate the overarching ideas through the following principles:
  • Libraries must transform themselves to better support the mission of our institutions
  • Innovation is an essential component for transformation
  • Innovation comes in many varieties
  • Successful innovation can not happen without effective people, processes, practices and technologies
This last point is one that has continued to bounce around my head since the Forum. I worry a great deal that libraries do not have "industrial strength" capabilities in terms of people, processes, practices and technologies. I have no doubt regarding our service orientation and commitment, but I believe we have a long way to go in terms of developing infrastructure -- both people and technology -- that can meet the needs of our scholars.

Perhaps this is something the to be hired DLF Program Officer will think about.

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