Geographical origins of delegates registered for the first DSF seminar in October.

Watch RLUK Digital Shift Forum events on demand

The RLUK Digital Shift Forum attracts speakers and participants from around the world. One of its key aims is to bring colleagues together from across the library, information, cultural, and research communities to discuss the future of the digital shift and identify ways that we might work across sectors, professional boundaries, and national borders. You can catch up with our previous events below.

Jump to a talk:

SEASON 3 (2023-24)

SEASON 2 (2021-22)

SEASON 1 (2020-21)

July 2024

New Digital Frontiers – How can libraries make the most of open-source AI and machine learning?

Slides PDF

New Digital Frontiers will explore the role AI and Machine learning can play in our libraries, the platforms we use, the challenges we face and the opportunities we have.

There is currently a lot of interest in libraries regarding the use of AI. Much of this enthusiasm comes from the increasing capabilities of generative AI systems. Vendors are increasingly offering ‘AI-enabled’ products and services, and people across all sectors and industries are eager to ‘do something with AI.’

In this discussion, Daniel van Strien, a Machine Learning Librarian at Hugging Face, explores practical ways in which libraries can leverage AI and machine learning, and why this often doesn’t necessitate the use of generative AI. Daniel also advocates for more libraries to consider adopting and contributing to open-source AI.

Resources mentioned during the event:

June 2024

New Digital Frontiers – How can libraries leverage the benefits of AI and what is on the horizon? An RLUK, SCONUL and UKSG event

New Digital Frontiers explores the role AI and Machine learning can play in our libraries, the platforms we use, the challenges we face and the opportunities we have. This third event, in partnership with SCONUL and UKSG, explores how can libraries leverage the benefits of AI and what is on the horizon.

AI has had a profound impact on libraries and higher education in a very short space of time. Yet beyond the hype around generative AI, how can libraries benefit from AI in a practical sense and what can they actually do with it? And given the rapid pace of change, what’s likely to be on the horizon?

This panel discussion features representatives from library and educational software vendors and sector bodies. They discuss how libraries can navigate this journey, what role the software sector can play, and how libraries can support the ethical adoption of AI.

Chaired by Wendy White, Director of Library & Learning Services (University Librarian) at the University of Southampton.

Panellists are:

  • Michael Webb – Director of Technology & Analytics, Jisc
  • Christine Stohn – Senior Director of Strategy & Innovation, Clarivate
  • Thomas Padilla – Deputy Director, Archiving and Data Services at the Internet Archive
  • Ashleigh Faith, Director of AI and Semantic Innovation, EBSCO

June 2024

New Digital Frontiers – Prompt engineering in libraries

Generative AI tools based on LLMs have had a profound effect on universities and research libraries. The way people find information, do research, and produce academic content is bringing fundamental change to concepts such as authorship and plagiarism. Academic integrity is critically important here and skills are crucial here. Librarians, other university staff and learners can adapt, take opportunities, or may be left behind by the advent of these tools. In this talk, Liam Bullingham, Oona Ylinen, and Beth Burnet from the University of Essex share some early reflections on prompt engineering in libraries.

Liam and Oona have kindly provided responses to audience questions that we did not have time for during the event:

1. Does Statista disclose the underlying LLM? Who provides it to them?

This is taken from Statista’s website:

Research AI V1 leverages semantic search and Cohere technology to pinpoint the most pertinent Statista data for any given user query. Research AI accesses content and datasets from the 10 most relevant sources, links them to the user query, and feeds the bundled information into our LLM (Claude 3 Sonnet). This process generates detailed responses, and we integrate citations directly into the text, making the narratives easy to understand and fact-check.

…so as mentioned in the talk, we can see that Clause 3 Sonnet is the LLM. This has changed since launch, when it was Chat GPT 4 Turbo. Claude is provided by a company called Anthropic.

2. Does your university have a policy on GenAI usage?

Yes, to an extent. We provide guidance to students in terms academic integrity here: Artificial intelligence guidance | University of Essex

What we don’t yet have is a generative AI research and innovation policy, though we’re looking at policies set out by other institutions, who have taken an early lead.

3. How good are the Gen AI tools at generating prompts?

Oona – I have never tried getting AI to write a prompt for me and I’ll admit I’m quite amazed that I haven’t. Based on some brief experimenting, AI tools like ChatGPT at least look to be pretty good at generating prompts but less so at suggesting prompting strategies (I’m trying to achieve x task, how should I prompt you about it, how can I ensure the information is accurate and free of biases or stereotypes) the prompts themselves appear quite varied, complex and comprehensive, but on the strategy side tend to veer to “zero-shot” prompting rather than prompting in the more conversational, brainstorming, chain-of-thought, creative ways – though you can also request a series of prompts to achieve a specific task broken down to several steps.

There are potential issues with AI-generated prompts in that they don’t address avoiding biases or stereotypes or display much criticality as standard – you need to know to ask for that to include it. You’ll also get mostly quite general prompts, which worked for the tasks I asked ChatGPT to write prompts for, but if you’re trying to do something very niche you may find you’ll still need to customise the prompt your tool of choice has given you. Based on this very brief experiment I’d say they’re pretty good for providing structure, approach, and specific language to use – so possibly a good avenue for learning how to prompt and act as starting points. I probably don’t need to spell out the potential concerns around students going and using AI to write prompts without appropriate understanding of how to use generative AI ethically and according to academic integrity policies.

Here are some of the shorter example prompts ChatGPT came out with when I asked how I could write prompts that reduce the chances of mistakes, biases, or misleading information:

“Explain the history of artificial intelligence development. Be mindful of and explicitly state any potential biases or gaps in the data sources you reference.”

“Provide information on the benefits of renewable energy. Please include references to credible sources and validate the accuracy of the information.”

“Evaluate the potential benefits and drawbacks of implementing renewable energy policies in urban areas. Consider any underlying assumptions or hidden motives that might be present in the arguments for and against these policies.”

May 2024

New Digital Frontiers – AI & Machine Learning in Libraries

New Digital Frontiers explores the role AI and Machine learning can play in our libraries, the platforms we use, the challenges we face and the opportunities we have. This first event in this series is an accessible and gentle introduction to key concepts and applications in the library context led by Nora McGregor (British Library). It is ideal for beginners and those new to these concepts but may also be of interest to colleagues across the sector exploring AI and Machine Learning.

March 2024

Reflections on Repository Infrastructure

This joint RLUK and Open Repositories event shares reflections on our repository infrastructure. The first talk was delivered by Professor Hussein Suleman whose research is situated within the Digital Libraries Laboratory in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Cape Town. Professor Suleman gave the closing keynote at Open Repositories 2023 and his talk encourages us to think broadly about the ways repositories enable discoverability and interoperability of information and data within the structured web of data.

The second talk was given by Stefano Cossu, Harvard University. Stefano shared key takeaways and updates on Harvard’s Digital Repository Service (DRS) Futures Project. The DRS has provided digital preservation and access to Harvard’s library and archival collections for 22 years. The once cutting-edge technology supporting this service has gradually aged and is due for a redesign. In approaching this major institutional challenge, which affects over 60 Harvard departments and uncountable external users of their data, Harvard have taken an innovative approach not only in the technology or production practices, but also in the modes of collaboration, information gathering and audience targeting.

Earlier versions of these talks were presented at Open Repositories 2023, in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

February 2024

Digital GLAM II – Using IIIF for Digital Content

The International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) is a set of open standards for delivering high-quality, attributed digital objects online at scale. It’s also an international community developing and implementing the IIIF APIs. This session is the second in a series of events exploring IIIF use in cultural heritage and features two presentations.

Scott Bradley and Valentina Flex from Newcastle University Library discuss the newly relaunched IIIF enabled website of explorer, writer, archaeologist, and colonial diplomat, Gertrude Bell (1868 – 1926) and her archive. The website contains a comprehensive and unique resource of newly digitised images of Bell’s photographs, letters and diary entries, presented alongside transcriptions and other contextual information. In 2017, the archive was added to UNESCO’s International Memory of the World register in recognition of its global significance as a heritage resource.

Joe Padfield from the National Gallery, London explores using IIIF at scale and how it can facilitate digital infrastructure, highlight how it can enable researchers to use digital content, this includes FAIR and IIIF working together, and showcase dynamic applications of IIIF in documentation, examination and re-interpretation activities.

January 2024

Digital GLAM I – Exploring International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) in Cultural Heritage

The International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) is a set of open standards for delivering high-quality, attributed digital objects online at scale. It’s also an international community developing and implementing the IIIF APIs. This event is the first in a series exploring and showcasing IIIF in cultural heritage. It begins with an accessible introduction to IIIF highlighting its functionality, APIs, opportunities, tools and the wider IIIF community and is followed by a demonstration of IIIF in action using free tools that anyone can access.

Alison Harvey is based in Cardiff University Special Collections and Archives, where she’s responsible for managing digitisation workflows, and supporting teaching in digital humanities and visual culture. She’s recently completed an RLUK/AHRC-funded fellowship that reviewed free, low infrastructure tools for creating and re-using IIIF images for digital archives and exhibitions.

Glen Robson works for the IIIF Consortium as the IIIF Technical Coordinator giving training and assisting the community to implement IIIF. Before this he spent 13 years working at the National Library of Wales (NLW), latterly as the Head of Systems. Glen started working with the IIIF standard in 2013 and implemented the IIIF standards within the library on its Newspaper, Photograph, Archive, Map and Crowdsourcing Systems.

Online resources (kindly provided by Alison Harvey):

There is currently no central search engine for IIIF. Each institution has its own method for making manifests (links to IIIF objects) available. The IIIF website maintains a list of links to library catalogues featuring IIIF content, and how to find their IIIF manifests.

To find out more: IIIF 5 day workshop materials – the next fully supported course runs in March.

IIIF functionality examples:

Example IIIF manifest:

  • 1881 map of America – when the page opens, copy the link in the address bar – this is the manifest. Try pasting it into Universal Viewer (scroll down to the demo), or one of the storytelling tools below.

Images uploaded to the Internet Archive can be served as IIIF objects:

Try copying the .json link, and pasting into Mirador. Click the plus button, then add resource, to load a new manifest.

Storiiies – annotate a single image:

Exhibit – annotate multiple images:

Minimal Digital: an introductory guide to free and simple tools for getting started with digital storytelling, digital archives, and digital exhibitions, compiled as part of an AHRC-RLUK Professional Practice Fellowship Scheme project.

December 2023

Thinking through the environmental cost of digital technology in museums

Nicôle Meehan is Co-Director and Lecturer in Museum and Heritage Studies at the University of St Andrews. After working in the cultural sector in digital and engagement focused roles (Historic Environment Scotland, Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, National Galleries Scotland), Nicôle joined the University of St Andrews. Her research and teaching focuses on digital technology in museums, thinking broadly about the advantages and limitations of these, and the impact of their use upon diverse audiences. She is particularly interested in matters of digital access, digital exclusion, and digital colonialism. Nicôle’s current research examines the value-based judgements enacted by museums in the use of digital technologies in relation to the climate crisis.

November 2023

Sustainability and UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

This session focused on issues of Sustainability and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals are ‘a call for action by all countries – poor, rich and middle-income – to promote prosperity while protecting the planet. They recognize that ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with strategies that build economic growth and address a range of social needs including education, health, social protection, and job opportunities, while tackling climate change and environmental protection.

The session highlighted the role of information systems and services in addressing global challenges and sustainable development. It also shared the experience of Stellenbosch University library in South Africa in supporting SDGs and how the library can contribute to SDG Research. It will also include the role of SUNScholar, Stellenbosch’s institutional repository in improving the findability of SDG related research.

Speakers were Professor Gobinda Chowdhury, Professor of Information Science in the Department of Computer & Information Sciences at the University of Strathclyde and Mimi Seyffert-Wirth, Director for Scholarly Communication and Marketing at Stellenbosch University.

October 2023

Sustainability and digital in museums, collections and archives

This event explored some of the complex issues that museums, collections and archives face when trying to determine the most sustainable ways to preserve and make available their holdings.

Kate Gill and Sarah Phillips from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew shared five ways digitising Kew’s specimens can help save the world. Kew have taken on an ambitious project to digitise entire collections of more than eight million plant and fungal specimens, opening up a treasure trove of information that will help scientists understand and protect the natural world.

Stacey Anderson from The Box, Plymouth shared ‘Beyond Analogue’ – a journey towards sustainable digital preservation within a museum and archives service.

The speakers have kindly provided answers to audience questions that we did not have time for during the live event:

Q: What would be the most sustainable between preservation formats to keep digitised, all the raw images or one unique hi-resolution “master” PDF/A version ?

Raw images are always better because it is the purest form of a digital object – which is important for archiving, but it depends on what you are looking to do with it. If it is for the purposes of just having a record of something perhaps quality isn’t as important. Media collections (film and photographic) do require fairly high quality masters to support research and interrogation. 

If by ‘Raw’ they mean the proprietary files from a camera these can be at risk of obsolescence which is why we often make a TIFF copy of each asset.

Keeping individual files rather than embedded within single PDF file is better, because these can be checksummed and issues dealt with. If a PDF is corrupted, ALL assets within that PDF are lost. 

The sustainability factor from all this comes from planning around what you select and capture for archiving – do we need to be saving everything? Do we need to save everything as master access and viewing copies? Also, in how you then monitor and maintain your digital assets within a management system – energy efficiencies can be achieved through carbon friendly approaches (automated check-summing, retention i.e. getting rid of duplicates and dark data, not checking everything for example). Finally, the storage mechanisms (technologies) you choose to safeguard your assets can play a really important role in sustainability regardless of chosen formats – LTOs are better than spinning discs and a lot of organisations are now looking increasingly at Cloud based solutions or hybrid ones to manage their assets.  

October 2023

Digital Inclusion by Universal Design

This event focused on Digital Inclusion by Universal Design with talks by Edward Jewell, President Elect of Libraries Connected and Tiina Hill, Head of Delivery, LibraryOn at the British Library. It highlighted broader digital inclusion challenges, and opportunities across both libraries and society which can support digital inclusion.

June 2022

Realising a vision for the digital shift: RLUK’s Digital Shift Manifesto 2 years on

In May 2020, RLUK launched its digital shift manifesto. The manifesto provided an ambitious vision for the research library community regarding the ongoing digital shift in its collections, spaces, stakeholder relations, and skills.

Although envisaged and developed before Covid-19, the launch and implementation of the manifesto coincided with the pandemic. We’ve experienced and learnt a lot during this time.

In this interactive and discursive symposium, the current members of RLUK’s digital shift working group reflect on the ambitions of the manifesto and the future challenges and opportunities facing the community around the digital shift. How can we build on the manifesto’s vision, its success over the last two years, and seize our collective learning from the Covid-19 pandemic? The symposium also includes contributions from those colleagues who originally contributed to manifesto’s creation, and colleagues who have used the manifesto in their work.

June 2022

Building Digital Confidence Through Action Research – Ross Parry, Professor of Museum Technology, University of Leicester

This seminar shares the approaches of an international consortium (funded by the UK’s AHRC and the US’s National Endowment for the Arts) of university partners, cultural organisations and professional bodies who over the last five years have been leveraging action research to help build the digital confidence of cultural and heritage institutions.

The ‘One by One’ initiative (starting in the UK, then the US, and now on-going now in Canada, funded by the Canadian Council for the Arts) has not only influenced government policy and standards around digital literacy within the sector, but has helped to frame new ways of reflecting upon (and acting upon) digital work in cultural institutions.

The session also shares early sight of how this distinctive approach to partnership, practice-led research, and activity centred on sector strategic priorities will, later this year, form the basis for a major new research institute of digital culture.

Resources mentioned in this talk were:

Digital Culture Compass
Digital Pathways, Culture24
People. Change. Museums podcast

May 2022

Understanding the user perspective: A DE-UK dialogue

This collaborative event between RLUK and VDB explored the ‘user perspective’. As the digital shift continues and accelerates, including in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, research and academic libraries have continued to innovate and develop pioneering services in response to their changing users’ needs. Including speakers from the UK and German library communities, this seminar considered the ways in which research and academic libraries are capturing and understanding the changing perspective and needs of their users, and the innovative services and resources being created as a result.


  • Antony Groves, Learning & Teaching Librarian, University of Sussex Library
  • Guy Baxter, Associate Director – Archive Services. University Museums and Special Collections, University of Reading
  • Ninon Frank, Subject Specialist and Head of Public Relations, Stiftung Universität Hildesheim
  • Erik Senst, Teaching Librarian and Head of Information Services, Leuphana Universität Lüneburg

May 2022

Utilising Sourcery: an app for archivists, researchers, and repositories of all sizes – Carly Wanner-Hyde, project lead of Sourcery and design technologist, Greenhouse Studios

The needs of archivists and researchers have never changed as quickly as they have in the past two years: travel restrictions, financial pressures, health and safety concerns, and more have shifted how we navigate both the physical and digital spaces of reference and research. These changes have highlighted the need for improved digital infrastructure, not only for the duration of the pandemic but also afterward, especially for people who rely on digital infrastructure such as those with disabilities or without the means to travel. Meeting the growing demand among remote patrons for reference scans of archival documents is one area in which this situation is especially acute. Sourcery is a mobile application that aims to supply a better way for researchers to request reference scans and archivists a better way to fulfil them. Sourcery provides archivists with a streamlined reference scanning workflow, payment processing services, and rich usage analytics. It provides researchers with a single interface for placing document requests across multiple remote repositories. Project lead and design technologist Carly Wanner-Hyde gives an overview of the app and leads a conversation as to how Sourcery can become a dynamic tool for both researchers and repositories, and how it may be better tailored to the needs of institutions in the future.

If you’d like more information about Sourcery then you can get in touch with Carly at

To join as a researcher:
To join as a partner institution:

April 2022

The Reasonable Robot: Artificial Intelligence and the Law – Ryan Abbott, Professor of Law and Health Sciences, University of Surrey

AI and people do not compete on a level-playing field. Self-driving vehicles may be safer than human drivers, but laws often penalise such technology. People may provide superior customer service, but businesses are automating to reduce their taxes. AI may innovate more effectively, but an antiquated legal framework constrains inventive AI. In The Reasonable Robot, Ryan  argues that the law should not discriminate between AI and human behaviour and proposes a new legal principle that will ultimately improve human well-being.

April 2022

Along came Google: A History of Library Digitization – Roger Schonfeld and Deanna Marcum, Ithaka S+R

The history of library digitisation can provide many important lessons for library leaders today. In this session, Deanna Marcum and Roger Schonfeld, authors of the recently published Along Came Google (Princeton University Press), will have a conversation about some of the key issues.

They discuss…

  • Collaboration among libraries and with third party catalysts and partners, including commercial organisations;
  • The Google program’s incredible success — from Google’s perspective – and just how transformational it actually was (and was not) for access; and
  • The enduring importance of strong leadership.

March 2022

Digital initiatives in Africa: creating an environment for digital equity – Dr Buhle Mbambo-Thata, University Librarian, National University of Lesotho

The African content constitutes 4% of digital content worldwide. Furthermore, 20% of Africa’s population is below the age of 50. The youthfulness of the African population is the hope of the continent. It is anticipated that the youthful population would be consuming and contributing to development of Africa’s digital content. In order to contribute to the development of digital content, Africa and its youth needs, digital environments, infrastructures and digital skills to engage with creation of digital content from Africa.  Such development will grow Africa’s content in digital spaces, enabling it to grow beyond 4%, an imperative for social justice. This paper explores Africa wide development initiatives around  digital infrastructure, creation of digital content and development of digital skills that will promote the digital equity in digital knowledge spaces.

MARCH 2022

Making not breaking: a cybernetics approach to responsible AI design – Ellen Broad, Research and Senior Fellow, School of Cybernetics, Australian National University

At Australia’s national university, a new approach to engineering responsible AI systems is being explored, drawing on reinvigorated cybernetic concepts. In this talk, Ellen explores cybernetics – the trans-disciplinary mid 20thcentury movement from which AI and computer science emerged – as an organising framework through which to reconsider how we build, maintain and use AI systems. Drawing on not only the technological elements comprising AI systems, but their human and ecological elements, cybernetics offers a way of reimagining the way we engineer AI today and the role it plays in our future.


Improving discoverability of knowledge leveraging modern technology – Catherine Devine, Business Strategy Leader – Libraries and Museums, Microsoft

In this talk Catherine explores the possibilities of improving discoverability of collections and information through the use of modern technologies, such as artificial intelligence. Digitising collections and making them accessible is only scratching the surface of what is possible to understand and access about the world’s knowledge. She paints a vision for the future and the possibilities for humanity that come from increased understanding and access to knowledge, and then drills down to reality and the present day to talk about the improvements to discoverability that can be realised now, building on existing systems and processes.

Resources referenced in Catherine’s talk:

Video Indexer – free option for trying out video description

Image tagging – free option for trying out cognitive services

Microsoft website for Cognitive Services

Metropolitan Museum of Art – Art Explorer demo

JFK Files – text and knowledge mining demo


Design From/With/By Data – Chris Speed, Chair of Design Informatics, University of Edinburgh

The design community have used qualitative and quantitative data to inform the development of products, services and systems for many years. From market analytics to observational analysis, and questionnaires to design probes, designers understand implicitly the need to watch, listen and learn from the data that is gathered by prototypes before, during and after the design process. However, whilst the methods for gathering data have grown to reflect research through design approaches, there has been little classification of the kinds of data that we are encountering in an age of large digital data sets, nor to frame how we design alongside them.

The talk reflects upon a framework for designers that was introduced in 2016 that reflected on methods of working with data, in order to anticipate its ability to transform design processes as its level of performativity increases. The framework aims to offer a means of organising both existing methods but also of anticipating emerging methods that recognise the increasing performative qualities of data.

The provocation of the talk is that by acknowledging the fast-moving nature of data-driven technologies, there are many challenging aspects of being a contemporary design researcher within the Digital Shift agenda, and we need new literacies (including the ablative framework) in order that we retain a digital literacy and social values.


Technology is Not the Answer: Why “Digital” is Not the Most Important Aspect of Your Digital Strategy – Megan Hurst and Christine Madsen, Co-founders, Athenaeum21 Consulting (A21)

We define ‘digital strategy’ as ‘a plan of action for the adoption of institutional processes and practices to support and/or transform the organisation and culture to effectively and competitively function in an increasingly digital world’. In 1975, a Kodak employee built the first digital camera. In 2012, Kodak filed for bankruptcy, having had its photographic film business disrupted by competitors invested heavily in promoting the ‘new’ technology of digital photography. Why do large organisations (including academic institutions) fail to evolve with the times? And what is your strategy for supporting evolution and innovation in your organisation? How do you adapt to and benefit from change and new ideas? Athenaeum21 was commissioned to conduct an environmental scan of how and why digital strategies in a range of organisations succeed, and also why they ‘fail’. The answers are complex, but there are important trends worth understanding. In this talk you will learn how and why people, culture, leadership, and organisational alignment are arguably more important for digital transformation than data and technology.

You can download a digital copy of Megan and Christine’s book, Technology is not the answer here.


More than the Eye Can See: The Digital Curation Shift – Christopher (Cal) Lee, Professor, UNC School of Information and Library Science

The shift from predominately analog to predominately digital acquisitions requires significant shifts in library thinking and practices.  The shift toward digital curation involves attention to various forms of digital representation. Cal  summarises several current and emerging trends in digital curation, with a strong emphasis on use of free and open-source tools that can expose, capture and transform digital representation at multiple levels.  Implications and open questions for participants in their own professional and institutional settings are also discussed.


Joint VDB-RLUK event: Building a Research Commons: Libraries as partners in the production of research

Moderated by Ewald Brahms (University Hildesheim/VDB) and Torsten Reimer (British Library/RLUK)

This collaborative event between RLUK and VDB explored ‘Building a Research Commons: Libraries as partners in the production of research’. Including speakers from the UK and German library communities, the seminar considered the role of research and academic libraries in the production of scholarly research and the innovative services and resources being created to enable this.


  • Sarah Ames, Digital Scholarship Librarian, The National Library of Scotland.
  • Christopher Fleet, Map Curator, The National Library of Scotland.
  • Matt Greenhall, Deputy Director, Research Libraries UK.
  • Ellen Reihl, Deputy Director of University and State Library Saxony-Anhalt.


Is it a bird? Is it a plane? What is a Library? – Charlotte Roueché, Professor Emeritus of Digital Hellenic Studies, King’s College London

The word ‘Library’ is rather like ‘School’: it a word which has been used over centuries to describe a variety of entities. The meaning is determined by who you are, and when you are using it – and the meaning before 2020 may well be different from the meaning in 2021. What are the essential functions of a library? In the journey of knowledge, what is the difference between a library and a publisher? Charlotte explores these meanings with librarians, since it seems that the Library of the Future depends on the Librarian of the Future.


Making the digital shift visible: Postprint and its implications – N. Katherine Hayles, Distinguished Research Professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and James B. Duke Professor Emerita, Duke University

From a book buyer’s perspective, print books nowadays seem very much like print books in 1950, or even 1900. What strategies can we use to foreground the profound changes that have taken place with the advent of digital technologies? This talk introduceS the concept of postprint and illustrateS with examples from Katherine’s most recent book, Postprint: Books and Becoming Computational. Topics include transitions in how academic presses view their work, how academic careers are changing shape as scholars move from (or between) books and scholarly websites, and changes within print technologies themselves.


Introducing Skilltype: Modern talent management for the global GLAM sector – Tony Zanders, Founder and CEO, Skilltype 

People are the research library’s most valuable resource, as evidenced by their position as the top budgetary expenditure. But the methods designed to manage people from recruitment through retirement were developed under an entirely different set of assumptions than today. In 2018, a group of nine research libraries collaborated to fund research and development of a new software platform created to modernise the infrastructure used to manage information professionals. Concluding in June 2020, this two-year process produced Skilltype – a cloud-based software platform for information professionals and their teams to analyse, develop, and share expertise. Founder and CEO Tony Zanders gives an overview and demonstration of how the platform addresses modern talent management use cases including internal talent identification, skills gap analysis, personalised employee development, consortial expertise sharing, and more.


Future-proofing the research library: Designing talent strategy for 2030 and beyond – Tony Zanders, Founder and CEO, Skilltype

In a matter of weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic made the handbook for operating research libraries obsolete. Austerity measures, coupled with sudden demand for specialised skills, placed talent strategy under a microscope as organisations worked to provide service continuity. The result was not a mere reshuffling of existing personnel, but a radical rethinking of library services in a digital-first scholarly experience. Award-winning software entrepreneur and library technology executive, Tony Zanders, discusses the state of library talent management in the fourth industrial revolution. He provides an international scan of the key movements, challenges, and opportunities leaders are witnessing within the skills landscape. Observations on how our workforce is changing, and how it needs to change further ware also shared.


Innovation in collections and practices through cross-sector collaboration: the RLUK/TNA professional fellows share their work

This webinar brings together the recently graduated RLUK/ TNA professional fellows to discuss the results of their projects. They raise issues around cultural collections and their audiences and the role of collections in engaging with underrepresented groups and addressing current societal problems. The work conducted by the RLUK/TNA fellows is a great example of how cross-sector collaboration can facilitate innovation in collections and practices in libraries and archives.

More information about the RLUK/TNA Professional Fellowship Scheme can be found here.

Archive Catalogues as Data: Reimagining Archival Practice
Caroline Bolton, Archivist, Special Collections, University of Leeds

Sex work and the State: Collaboration, ethics and ‘challenging’ histories
Vicky Iglikowski-Broad, Principal Diverse Histories Records Specialist, The National Archives.

Examining the best practice of archives and libraries in developing and delivering an online and in house session for secondary school aged students, with an emphasis on widening participation in the University.
Jennie Aspinall, Assistant Learning Officer, Library and Heritage Collections, University of Durham


The academic library and artificial intelligence: some possible futures – Andrew Cox, Senior Lecturer, Information School, University of Sheffield

View slides from this presentation

The term ‘artificial intelligence’ has many meanings, past and present. In its current guise it has many potential applications in HE. An important aspect of this is the increasing use of data science techniques, such as machine learning, in research across all disciplines: from digital humanities, computational social science through to more obvious applications in the sciences. As data science skills are increasingly in demand in many sectors of the economy so there is an employability driver for it being taught in many disciplines. There are a number of ways academic libraries are already and could in the future be involved in supporting this activity: such as through providing content, licensing proprietary platforms or participating in academic led support communities. This talk presents the options and offers an analysis of which are most likely, drawing on an understanding of the professional knowledge base, balanced with a sense of wider institutional demands.

JULY 2021

Openness and open source in library systems: a DE-UK dialogue (a joint RLUK – VDB event)

A joint VDB – RLUK event

In many markets, the digital shift has led to increasing market concentration, with only a smaller number of large corporates having the resource to compete (or to buy the competition). As digital services become more powerful, the complexity of their design and algorithms increase too. As libraries are built around principles of openness and trust, we depend on transparency and an understanding of how our services work, so we can guard against bias. This session will look at the two case studies of libraries using open source technologies, embedded in a discussion of the wider landscape of library systems.

Moderated by Ewald Brahms (University of Hildesheim/VDB) and Torsten Reimer (British Library/RLUK)

Kirstin Kemner-Heek is Head of Local Library Systems Department at the Head Office of the Common Library Network GBV in Göttingen. She will discuss the potential of the open source FOLIO library management system, drawing from her experience as member of the FOLIO Community Council and past-chair of the FOLIO product council.

William Nixon is Assistant Director (Academic Engagement and Digital) at the University of Glasgow. He will reflect on the Glasgow experience in open source development for repositories and current research information systems.

JULY 2021

Library spaces and openness post Covid-19: a DE-UK dialogue (a joint VDB – RLUK event)

A joint VDB – RLUK event

As the experience of lockdown during the pandemic has shown, library spaces are a critical element for service delivery both for patrons and for staff. In this session, we will discuss ideas for integrating digital and physical elements of library spaces, ambitions for more openness in space design and, crucially, the experience and lessons learned from the pandemic.

Moderated by Ewald Brahms (University of Hildesheim/VDB) and Torsten Reimer (British Library/RLUK)

Ed Fay is Director of Library Services and University Librarian at the University of Bristol, which has recently received planning approval to build a New University Library. It is designed to be at the heart of the university campus enabling the academic achievement and well-being of our students, innovative research partnerships, and civic engagement. Ed will talk about the New University Library design principles, learning from the pandemic, and short-medium term plans for learning environments supporting blended education.

Konstanze Söllner is Director of Library Services and University Librarian at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU). Konstanze will talk about FAU’s ambitious plans for renewing its library spaces for the humanities and social sciences. On its Erlangen site, FAU is looking to redevelop a large 1950s office complex (the so called “Himbeerpalast”, or “Raspberry Palace”), while starting a completely new development in Nuremberg.

JUNE 2021

Engaging with Artificial Intelligence in Research Libraries – Amanda Wheatley and Sandy Hervieux, McGill University

As artificial intelligence becomes a popular topic in the news and popular culture, Research Libraries are experiencing an increase in available technology using AI. As the AI environment grows, it will become more and more important for librarians to familiarise themselves with these applications, their benefits, challenges, and implications. This presentation examines North American academic librarian perceptions of AI, as well as the current state of AI strategic preparedness from research universities. Amanda and Sandy also discuss a series of workshops that they created to educate academic library users on artificial intelligence.

MAY 2021

Digital poverty, inclusion, and the role of research libraries: A cross-sector international symposium

This symposium takes a holistic, cross-sector, and international look at the issues of digital poverty and exclusion, and the role of society, higher-education, libraries, and research libraries in particular, in combating these challenges.

The scale of the challenge

Digital poverty has existed since the advent of digital technology and long-standing inequalities have existed in relation to access to digital devices, the availability of stable (or any) internet connections, and in the levels of digital confidence and skill of large cross-sections of society. Although long standing, these issues have been brought into sharp focus during the Covid-19 pandemic and the physical closure of workplaces, public institutions, and places of learning.

In 2018, 10% of the UK population were recorded as internet ‘non-users’, who had either never used it or had not accessed the internet in the previous three months, with significant variations in terms of demography, ethnic background, and geography (UK ONS, Exploring the UK’s digital divide, March 2019). The same report revealed that 4.3 million people across the UK did not have basic digital skills, and 11.3 million people had very few basic digital skills. The recent experience of Covid-19 has added to a growing body of research and literature regarding the experience and impact of digital poverty on learning, research, and community engagement. Within higher education, an Office for Students study (September 2020) cited that 52% of UK students’ learning was impacted by slow/poor Wi-Fi and that 18% lack access to a laptop/computer/tablet. Repeated periods of national lockdown have exposed the inequality and fragility of digital access to materials, collections, and services.

Levelling up and challenging the digital divide within the UK and beyond

Many organisations are working to address the digital divide. The Good Things Foundation has recently published a blueprint for a 100% digital included UK, highlighting the need for infrastructure, skills, and collective action. Key stakeholders across the higher-education sector, including Universities UK, have recently written to UK government ministers highlighting the urgent need for action around digital poverty amongst UK students and the impact that this is having on learning and life chances (Letter to ministers, 15 January 2021). Colleagues within Arts Council England, amongst other organisations, have championed the role of public libraries as providing essential digital infrastructure within communities, whereas academic research is highlighting the need for a holistic approach to digital inclusion within the wider communal fabric of society. Finally, RLUK’s digital shift manifesto has set out a vision for research libraries around the creation of physically and digitally inclusive spaces, the need to develop digital skills, and has highlighted the impact of the digital divide within research libraries during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

These challenges are not unique to the UK, and a lot can be learnt from colleagues elsewhere, particularly in the United States, where valuable and long-standing work has been undertaken to challenge digital inequality.


  • Catherine Mills, Head of Digital Social Inclusion, The Good Things Foundation
  • Hannah Holmes, Research Associate, Centre for Planning and Housing Research, University of Cambridge
  • Christopher Hale, Director of Policy, Universities UK
  • Sue Williamson, Director of Libraries, Arts Council England
  • Trevor Dawes, Vice Provost for Libraries and Museums and May Morris University Librarian, University of Delaware
  • Joe Lucia, Dean of Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

MAY 2021

Libraries, Readers, and Digital Distraction – Tyler Shores, ThinkLab Manager, University of Cambridge

This talk explores some of the ways in which digital engagement is more important than ever before for libraries. User attention and distraction are not so either/or as they might at first seem – and Tyler explores issues about reading and online habits and behaviours in ways that might challenge some common assumptions. In addition, the seminar provides the opportunity to discuss what works in a constantly evolving online and social media environment, based on research and best practices.

APRIL 2021

Better Sharing – Catherine Stihler, CEO, Creative Commons

Twenty years ago, Creative Commons (CC) started with a simple, radical idea: to save the Internet from “failed sharing.” At that time, copyright law made it difficult for anyone who wanted to share their work across the Internet under generous terms to do so. Today we have created a powerful tool that provides the infrastructure for legal, voluntary sharing that creates a global world of shared and reusable creative resources backed by a global network and community with a pure motive: aiding creators to grant free access to science, culture and knowledge all in the service of the common good.

If 2020 has taught us anything, there are still too many barriers to openness and that there is an urgent need to create equity in access to knowledge across the Internet so that we can share and work together to face the challenges of today and tomorrow. At CC they want to explore what better open sharing looks like in 2021 and beyond. How do we best serve the public interest when challenges around equity, climate and AI loom large? In this talk Catherine explores their current thinking on better sharing at the heart of our new strategy and what this means for us as both professionals and human beings.

APRIL 2021

Digital shifts and sustainability – Federica Lucivero, Senior Researcher in Data and Ethics, Ethox Centre and the Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities

The shift to digital services is often presented as a sustainable option that increases access while reducing carbon footprint. However, there is widespread evidence that digital infrastructures have considerable environmental impacts. Taking the start from an overview of available evidence of the environmental impacts of digital infrastructures, this seminar will explore emerging social and ethical challenges in the run towards sustainable digital technologies.  In describing current distribution of responsibilities, gaps in the system and stakeholders’ view on the matter, the seminar will critically discuss the intertwining of individual, institutional and corporate responsibility and the different values at stake.

MARCH 2021

Kua mua, ka muri: Using our digital experiences to look back and move forward at the Alexander Turnbull Library, New Zealand – Jessica Moran, Associate Chief Librarian, Alexander Turnbull Library, and Mark Crookston, Programme Director, National Library of New Zealand 

Ka mua, ka muri is a Māori whakatouki (proverb) meaning ‘walking backward into the future’. In 2020 the Alexander Turnbull Library (the research library within the National Library of New Zealand) celebrated its centenary. 100 years of building, protecting and providing research services to national collections covering a comprehensive range of publications, artistic expression, and archival documentation – analogue, digitised and (increasingly) born digital. This presentation outlines how we used the centenary to reflect on our experiences with digital shifts thus far and look forward to what we aspire to be as a research library. It will focus on the key challenges and opportunities provided by digital – building representative research collections, addressing challenges of sustainability, and the scale and ephemeral nature of born digital. Our efforts to meet researcher expectations, our work to build research communities, and the development of the staff skills and culture to meet the present and future digital shifts and requirements of being a digital research library will also be discussed.

MARCH 2021

“This building is never complete” – a tale of space, users and technologies – Hiral Patel, Lecturer and Architect, Cardiff University

Library buildings are always in a state of flux. They have been continuously adapted in response to emerging technologies, pedagogical innovations or creation of new library services.  This talk will discuss the evolution of a library building over the last 50 years in response to changing user needs and digital technologies, taking the example of the University of Reading’s library. The talk will conclude with provocations for the future role of library spaces, particularly in the context of rapid digital transitions instigated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The proliferation of technologies in our daily lives will have a profound impact on ways of learning and the use of libraries. Rethinking library buildings as interactions between users, technologies and physical spaces will become even more pertinent.


Digital creativity and the future of storytelling – Damian Murphy, Professor in Sound and Music Computing at AudioLab, University of York

** At 06:00 Damian is referring to colleagues from the Department of Psychology and not Archaeology as stated.

The increasingly ubiquitous nature of digital technology and data in our society has delivered a transformation in both our understanding and our practice of creativity – and the role that this digital technology holds – in its everyday realisation. We are moving to a point where digital technology integrates with and underpins many aspects of our lives and is no longer a novelty in and of itself. Digital Creativity therefore becomes something that provides a foundation to both support and enhance many forms of research and practice, as well as existing as an area of research in its own right, with no perceived barrier between the two.

This talk considers digital creativity in the context of future storytelling and cases studies that have emerged from the work of the XR Stories creative clusters R&D partnership project. From this we will consider what changes in our research culture might be demanded to ensure the wider benefit from the opportunities that digital creativity brings. How might we build a wider audience of digitally creative natives who are better able to embrace such opportunities? The impact across many aspects of our society, including the creative and cultural sectors, industry and community, has the potential to be significant.

Access the slides to this talk


Data and information for sustainable living and the future – Gobinda Chowdhury, Professor of Information Science, University of Strathclyde

Research shows that creation, management and sharing of relevant data and information form the foundation of success in achieving sustainable development in every field. However, Information Poverty remains a critical issue for societies today. Information poverty can be caused by a number of factors ranging from lack of access to ICTs to lack of basic digital skills, and poor information and data literacy. Over 10% of the UK population don’t have access to internet or ICT; 28% of people aged 65 are offline; 4.3 million people in UK do not have any basic digital skills, and 11.3 million people have very few basic digital skills. Recent reports on data misuse, misinformation and infodemics present clear evidences of potential risks and damages to individuals and society.

This talk touches upon some of these key points highlighting the challenges posed by data and information poverty in everyday life and society. While pointing towards some potential solutions for improving data and information access and use, the speaker will argue that such solutions can only be achieved through concerted efforts of multiple stakeholders, researchers and professionals in different domains.

Access the slides from this talk 


Managing digital in a time of accelerating change – John Stack, Digital Director, Science Museum Group

Museums, galleries, libraries and archives operate at their touch points with their audiences. Historically, the museum experience has begun and ended with the entry and exit of a physical visit. In the digital age, digital channels are a component of all visits, and increasingly visits are digital-only experiences.

Digital provides galleries, libraries, archives and museums, new ways to fulfil their missions through increased reach, enhanced experiences and deeper engagement. However, the digital landscape and audience behaviour continues to evolve rapidly presenting the challenge of how to keep up with ever-changing digital technologies and audience expectations. This talk will explore the ways in which digital might be deployed to achieve the right mix of sustainable long-term solutions, and experiments and exploration of emerging technologies.


Building digital skills and appetite for now and the future – Tiina Hill, Senior Manager, and James Akers, Tech Champion for Data Analytics and Insight, Digital Culture Network, Arts Council England

The pandemic as a catalyst for change or a temporary digital fix? Tiina and James offer an overview of emerging trends before and after lockdown in how the arts cultural sector is shifting to working more digitally and challenges around digital integration and transformation. They provide an outline of the Digital Culture Network, where it started from, and the work of its team of 9 specialist “on the ground” Tech Champions in building digital skills and capacity across the sector. They reflect on the demand for its support offer, provide insights and examples from working with people across the sector, and outline of Arts Council England’s 10 Year Strategy in supporting sector survival and resilience.


Managing the digital dystopia – Claire Warwick, Professor of Digital Humanities, Durham University

Digital is in danger of acquiring a bad rep. Over the last few months unprecedented numbers of people have become accustomed to living and working online, and not all of them enjoy it. They have found during the pandemic, the experience of interaction online, whether with other people, or with information is very different from what we do in person. And this experience is seldom compared favourably to physical, ‘real’ interaction. Thanks to the A level algorithm, all algorithms have come to be regarded with massive scepticism, to the extent that some local authorities have abandoned their use in welfare management. Social media is increasingly associated with deadly misinformation and hate speech, leading to boycotts by users, advertisers and even celebrities, bloggers and YouTubers. Yet, as librarians and information professionals know very well, digital delivery is ideal for certain types of information, such as journal articles or digital images of rare manuscripts. Digital allows us to interact with such materials in new and exciting ways. But how should we proceed, in an environment where our users may increasingly regard digital interaction and computational techniques with scepticism or even hostility? Claire explores some of these questions, based on the research she has done on the way that we interact with digital and physical information environments, especially in terms of emotion and affect.

Read an article to exploring this topic further: Claire Warwick (2021) Negotiating the Digital Dystopia: The Role of Emotion, Atmosphere and Social Contact in Making Decisions about Information Use in Physical and Digital Contexts, New Review of Academic Librarianship, DOI: 10.1080/13614533.2021.1964550


Pandemic effects and collection directions – Lorcan Dempsey, Vice President and Chief Strategist, OCLC

Beyond the scramble of the current situation, universities will be looking at long term pandemic effects. This clearly has implications for libraries, as they cleave more closely to university strategies. This presentation  looks at some pandemic effects, and considers how it will likely accelerate some collection directions already evident. It also emphasised two important collection imperatives – for optimisation and for pluralisation. In this talk Lorcan explores how different national systemic characteristics play into developments, sketching differences between UKI and the US.