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Introducing the RLUK Digital Shift Forum #RLUKDSF

RLUK’s Digital Shift Forum brings together colleagues from across the information, research, cultural and heritage communities, and third and commercial sectors, to discuss the future of the digital shift in collections, services, and audiences. 

These monthly seminars will include high-profile international speakers, from a wide variety of backgrounds and professions, who are at the forefront of current thinking around the digital shift. They will provide time and space for wide-ranging, inter-disciplinary discussions regarding the future of the digital shift, and will provide a springboard for cross-sector collaboration. The Digital Shift Forum is open to all, and you do not need to belong to an RLUK member institution to attend or participate.

The series aims to promote cross-sector discussion and debate, to enable knowledge exchange, and inspire collaborative endeavour across sectors and communities, for the benefit of RLUK members and the wider research and information management communities. 


We will be announcing new Digital Shift Forum events soon. Please keep checking back on this page or follow #RLUKDSF.

Why are we convening this series?

In May 2020, RLUK launched its manifesto for the digital shift in research libraries. The manifesto provides a future vision for the digital shift occurring within research library collections, services, operations, and audience interactions. The manifesto explores what is required in terms of skills and leadership, stakeholder engagement, collections and scholarship, and library spaces to enable this digital shift to continue, diversity, and deepen.

The time is now

Since the launch of the manifesto, members of RLUK’s digital shift working group have worked to implement the manifesto’s delivery plan in light of the Covid-19 crisis. The coronavirus crisis has enabled information, research, cultural and heritage organisation to hold a mirror to their experiences of the digital shift in their collections, operations, services, and audience interactions. The experiences of RLUK member libraries have been presented in RLUK’s research report, Covid-19 and the digital shift in action (July 2020) and in a co-authored chapter ‘Covid-19 and the Future of the Digital Shift amongst Research Libraries: An RLUK Perspective in Context‘, New Review of Academic Librarianship (November 2021).

RLUKDSF mailing list

Sign up to the RLUKDSF mailing list to be kept informed about upcoming events.

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RLUKDSF on demand

You can view recordings of previous RLUKDSF events at the link below.

RLUKDSF on Demand


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

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

3 December 2021, 09.00-11.00 (GMT), 10.00-12.00 (CET)

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

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

Speakers will include:

  • 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.

In preparation for this event, colleagues may wish to read the findings and recommendations of a joint RLUK-AHRC scoping study which explored the role of academic and research libraries as partners in, and leaders of, academic and scholarship research. Read the report here.

This is the third collaborative event between RLUK and VDB. Recordings of previous events can be found at:

More than the Eye Can See: The Digital Curation Shift

8 December 2021, 14.00-15.00 (GMT)

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 will summarise 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 will be discussed.

Christopher (Cal) Lee is Professor at the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He teaches courses and workshops in archives and records management; understanding information technology for managing digital collections; and adapting digital forensics methods to support curation of born-digital materials.  His primary research focus is the long-term curation of digital collections.  Cal has served as Principal Investigator and Co-Principal Investigator of numerous digital curation research and education projects.  He is a Fellow of the Society of American Archivists and recently completed his term as editor of American Archivist.

Christopher (Cal) Lee, Professor, UNC School of Information and Library Science

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Megan Hurst and Christine Madsen, Co-founders, Athenaeum21 Consulting (A21)

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Technology is Not the Answer: Why “Digital” is Not the Most Important Aspect of Your Digital Strategy

19 January 2022, 14.00-15.00 (GMT)

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. Join us to learn how and why people, culture, leadership, and organisational alignment are arguably more important for digital transformation than data and technology.

Megan Hurst and Christine Madsen are co-founders of Athenaeum21 Consulting (A21), a human-centred strategy and technology-planning consultancy serving higher education, arts, cultural heritage, publishing and media organisations worldwide. A21 facilitates the development of forward-looking organisational visions and roadmaps to deliver excellent user experiences, increase efficiencies, and implement change. They help their clients derive greater value from their data, information, and organisational knowledge (and from the systems that support them) by consciously architecting and managing them as strategic assets.

Christine is the head of Athenaeum21’s UK operations. She has 25 years’ experience designing and implementing sustainable and scalable digital and organisational improvements for world-leading academic and cultural organisations, including Harvard and Oxford universities. Her aim is to help build excellent knowledge organisations of the future, inspired by the greatest cultural organisations of the past.

Megan is the head of Athenaeum21’s North American operations. She has over 30 years’ experience building teams and developing digital (and “analog”) products and services in diverse academic, cultural, civic, and corporate organisations, ranging from Harvard University to EBSCO Information Services. She facilitates deep, human-centered inquiry and design, and is skilled at uncovering and amplifying strengths of both people and organisations, helping them confidently create new paths forward.


Design From/With/By Data

2 February 2022, 14.00-15.00 (GMT)

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 will reflect 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.

Further details of Chris’ presentation are available within the registration page.

Professor Chris Speed FRSE is Chair of Design Informatics at the University of Edinburgh where he collaborates with a wide variety of partners to explore how design provides methods to adapt and create products and services within a networked society. He is especially favours transgressive design interventions, to help identify and promote the values we care about most, including coffee machines that order their own ethical supplies, hairdryers that ask you to wait for the right time to blow dry your hair, and apps for sham marriages. Chris co-directs the Institute for Design Informatics that is home to a combination of researchers working across the fields of design, social science, and data science, as well as the PhD, MA/MFA and MSc and Advanced MSc programmes. Chris has an established track record in directing large complex grants with industry partners, that apply methods to challenges in the creative industries, banking, international development and cultural heritage sectors.

Professor Chris Speed FRSE, Chair of Design Informatics, University of Edinburgh

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Catherine Devine, Business Strategy Leader – Libraries and Museums, Microsoft

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Improving discoverability of knowledge leveraging modern technology

16 February 2022, 14.00-15.00 (GMT)

In this session, we’ll explore the possibilities of improving discoverability of collections and information through the use of modern technologies, such as artificial intelligence. Digitizing collections and making them accessible is only scratching the surface of what is possible to understand and access about the world’s knowledge. We’ll paint a vision for the future and the possibilities for humanity that come from increased understanding and access to knowledge, and then drill down to reality and the present day to talk about the improvements to discoverability that can be realized now, building on existing systems and processes.

Catherine Devine leads strategy for Libraries and Museums globally within Microsoft’s Education division. In this role her goal is to leverage technology to further the missions of Libraries and Museums globally in attracting visitors, optimising the visitor experience, supporting research, serving the community, improving operations and exploring emerging opportunities for Libraries and Museums as their role is defined in a continually changing world.

Catherine was most recently Chief Digital Officer at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. In that position, she led the digital transformation of the Museum for 7 years, as part of a 25 year career in technology across a variety of industries. Catherine has had a lifelong love and interest in technology and its ability to optimise outcomes across all aspects of life and society.

Catherine is originally from Sydney, Australia, holding a B. Business (Accounting) from the University of Technology, Sydney and a M. Sc Business Analytics (Data Science) from Syracuse University.

MARCH 2022

2 March 2022, 10.00-11.00 GMT

Further details of Ellen’s talk will be announced shortly.

Ellen Broad is a researcher and senior fellow with the School of Cybernetics, founded by Distinguished Professor Genevieve Bell within the College of Engineering and Computer Science at the Australian National University. Ellen has spent more than a decade working in the technology sector in Australia, the UK and Europe, in leadership roles spanning engineering, standards development and policy for organisations including CSIRO’s Data61, the Open Data Institute in the UK and as an adviser to UK Cabinet Minister Elizabeth Truss. She has written for publications including The Guardian, New Scientist and Griffith Review. She is the author of Made by Humans: the AI Condition (Melbourne University Publishing, 2018) and co-designer of a board game about open data, alongside ODI Vice President Jeni Tennison, called Datopolis that is being played in 19 countries.

Ellen Broad, Research and Senior Fellow, School of Cybernetics, Australian National University

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Dr Buhle Mbambo-Thata, University Librarian, The National University of Lesotho

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23 March 2022, 14.00-15.00 GMT

Further details of Dr Mbambo-Thata’s talk will be announced shortly.

Dr Buhle Mbambo-Thata is the University Librarian of the National University of Lesotho. Dr Mbambo-Thata previously served as the Director- Resources Development of the African Library and Information Association and Institutions (AfLIA); Executive Director, Library Services, University of South Africa; University Librarian, University of Zimbabwe, and Senior Librarian, University of Botswana.

She serves as Chair of the Board of Directors of the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), and a member of the board of directors of African Journals Online (AJOL).  She served two terms as Governing Board member of IFLA. She has also served on boards of other Library and Information Service support organisations. Dr Mbambo-Thata is a distinguished librarian whose knowledge and expertise have recognised thru awards for service excellence and leadership. Her research interests are in Women and ICT, and library development in Africa.