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RLUK’s Digital Shift Forum

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.

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SEASON 2 (2021)

SEASON 1 (2021)

NOVEMBER 2021

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.

OCTOBER 2021

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.

OCTOBER 2021

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.

SEPTEMBER 2021

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.

SEPTEMBER 2021

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

SEPTEMBER 2021

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.

Speakers:

  • 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.

FEBRUARY 2021

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

FEBRUARY 2021

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 

JANUARY 2021

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.

DECEMBER 2020

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.

NOVEMBER 2020

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

OCTOBER 2020

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.