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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. 

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).

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

MARCH 2021

Hiral Patel, Lecturer and Architect, Cardiff University

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“This building is never complete” – a tale of space, users and technologies

3 March 2021, 14:00 – 15:00

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.

Get involved: Libraries in 2040

As part of this talk, you are invited to contribute your visions of a library of the future. The purpose of this activity is to gather themes that need further exploration and dialogue. Send your postcard from the future here: https://padlet.com/patelh18/librariesin2040

Suggested readings:

Patel, H. and Tutt, D. (2018). “This building is never complete”: Studying adaptations of a library building over time. In: Sage, D. and Vitry, C. eds. Societies under Construction. Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 51–85

Patel, H. (2019). Are we looking at the same thing? Multiple methods to frame ‘occupancy’ of a library building. In: 35th Annual ARCOM Conference, 2-4 September 2019. Leeds

Patel, H. (2019). Learning-space compass. London: Higher Education Design Quality Forum


Hiral Patel’s current research and teaching aims to better understands clients and users of built environment. She is interested in themes of learning, socio-material practices, holistic building performance and adaptation of buildings. Having trained as an architect from India and practiced in the UK, her work has spanned from research, developing business processes, managing projects to technical building design. She has also provided programme management consultancy to higher education clients.

Hiral’s PhD research theorises the practices of adapting academic library buildings. Based on this research, her consultancy for Higher Education Design Quality Forum (HEDQF) to identified research themes for future learning environments in the higher education sector. She also designed a framework to better align learning spaces with curriculum. Her research around the DEGW archive explores the linkages between organisational practices and the built environment to help understand the changing nature of ‘work’. Building on this project, she is particularly interested in developing the methodology of curating exhibitions as part of the research process.

Jessica Moran, Associate Chief Librarian, Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand

Mark Crookston, Programme Director, Documentary Heritage, National Library of New Zealand

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Kua mua, ka muri: Using our digital experiences to look back and move forward at the Alexander Turnbull Library, New Zealand

24 March 2021, 19:00 – 20:00

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.

Jessica Moran is the Associate Chief Librarian at the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand. She has worked in university, non-profit, and government libraries and archives and for the past eight years has worked at the Alexander Turnbull Library, first as a digital archivist and more recently leading the Library’s Digital Collections Team. In these roles she has worked build digital skills awareness, training, and collaborative networks for archivists and librarians to address the challenges of digital collections, digital access, and digital research within the documentary heritage sector in New Zealand.

Mark Crookston is Programme Director, Documentary Heritage at the National Library of New Zealand. He loves working with documentary heritage, developing sustainable collaborations, and utilising humane technologies that support societal memory, people’s rights, accountability, and scholarship. Mark has worked in a number of archives and library roles and projects throughout New Zealand, the U.K., and the Pacific and is an active member of the New Zealand and international archival community.

APRIL 2021

Digital shifts and sustainability

7 April 2021, 14:00 – 15:00

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.

Federica Lucivero is a Senior Researcher in Ethics and Data at the Ethox Centre and the Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities (Big Data Institute, University of Oxford). She has trained in philosophy and qualitative research methods and her expertise spans across different areas and disciplines: ethics and social studies of science and technology, bioethics, governance of innovation, philosophy of science and technology. Her research focuses on the ethical aspects of the increasing introduction of IT(online portals, wearable sensors, mobile apps) in care pathways, individual health practices, and biomedical research.  More recently, she has been writing on the environmental sustainability of Big Data initiatives. She has been a researcher in several European projects (Ethicsbots, FI-STAR, Robolaw). Currently, she is involved in the RADAR-AD project that explores the potential of mobile and digital technologies to improve the assessment of Alzheimer’s Disease (https://www.radar-ad.org/). She is also in the ethics advisory board of research projects and start-ups that are developing digital applications for health and wellbeing (see for example, The Medic App and http://www.mathisis-project.eu). Federica has publications in several major journals in the field of ethics of innovation (including Science and Engineering Ethics, Nanoethics, Big Data and Society, American Journal of Bioethics, Journal of Medical Ethics, AI and Society, and Law Innovation and Technology) and she published a monograph on ethical assessments of emerging technologies with Springer. She is a member of the Lombardia Regional Forum for Research and Innovation.

Federica Lucivero, Senior Researcher in Data and Ethics, Ethox Centre and the Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities

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Better Sharing

21 April 2021, 14:00 – 15:00

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 we 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 my talk I would like to explore our current thinking on better sharing at the heart of our new strategy and what this means for us as both professionals and human beings.

Catherine Stihler OBE is the CEO of Creative Commons. She has been an international champion for openness as a legislator and practitioner for over 20 years.

She worked in the British House of Commons as a researcher before successfully standing for election as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for Scotland in 1999, representing the UK Labour Party. At the European Parliament in Brussels she became one of Scotland’s longest-serving and most respected legislators. She was elected Vice-Chair of the European Parliament’s Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee, working on digital policy where she prioritised the Digital Single Market, digital skills, better accessibility of digital products for the disabled, and citizen online data protection and privacy. She founded both the Campaign for Parliamentary Reform and the parliament’s All-Party Library Group, promoting and advocating for the importance of libraries in the new digital age. Catherine took on a lead role in the debate on copyright in the European Union’s (EU) Digital Single Market, serving as Rapporteur for the Internal Market Committee and standing up for over 500million European citizens.

While serving as an MEP, Catherine was also elected to serve as the 52nd Rector of the University of St Andrews between 2014 and 2017, and will serve as Senior Lay member on the university court from August 2020. In 2018 she was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of St Andrews. In 2019, she stood down from the European Parliament to become Chief Executive Officer of the Open Knowledge Foundation. Catherine transformed the Open Knowledge Foundation in just 18 months, redefining its vision and mission to produce a new strategic direction, reengaging its global chapters and increasing the worldwide profile of the organisation.

Catherine Stihler, CEO, Creative Commons

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MAY 2021

Tyler Shores, ThinkLab Manager, University of Cambridge

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Libraries, Readers, and Digital Distraction

5 May 2021, 14:00 – 15:00

This talk will explore 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 will explore issues about reading and online habits and behaviours in ways that might challenge some common assumptions. In addition, the seminar will provide the opportunity to discuss what works in a constantly evolving online and social media environment, based on research and best practices. This should be a highly interactive session and @tylershores will post updates and links the week before the event.

Tyler Shores is the Manager of the ThinkLab Program, within the Strategic Partnership Office at the University of Cambridge. His research focuses upon reading in print, reading on screens, and digital distraction and attention spans. Tyler’s current projects are focused on digital wellbeing, social media, and the role of digital technology in our everyday lives.

Prior to Cambridge, Tyler worked at Google in Mountain View, CA as part of Authors@Google, one of the world’s largest online lecture series. In addition he has worked as a director of digital textbooks in the field of nonprofit education, and most recently worked as a manager in online education at Stanford University.

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

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19 May 2021, 14:00 – 16:00

The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed the seriousness and significance of digital poverty within societies. 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 by the physical closure of workplaces, public institutions, and places of learning associated with the pandemic.

In a sector that has made great strides in opening up collections, resources, and services through digital access, research libraries have an important role to play in combating digital poverty amongst their users, staff, and local communities. The challenges around doing so are deeper rooted and more significant than has sometimes been recognised. 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

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 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 in its work around its 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. 

A cross-sector and international conversation

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.

This symposium will take 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. It will include speakers from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives, and delegates are encouraged to share their own experiences and insights through a series of facilitated discussions.

This symposium comes alongside RLUK’s other activities to understand the impact of Covid-19 on the research library community, and the ways in which libraries can work collectively and collaboratively to mitigate these. It forms part of RLUK’s Digital Shift Forum, an open and inter-disciplinary forum for the sharing of ideas and experiences regarding the digital shift across the research and information landscapes.

This symposium will be chaired and facilitated by Kirsty Lingstadt, Head of Digital Library and Deputy Director of Libraries and Archives, University of Edinburgh, and Michelle Blake, Interim Director, Libraries and Archives, University of York. Both Kirsty and Michelle are members of RLUK’s Digital Shift working group.

Delegates should come to the session prepared to join a cross-sector and international conversation regarding the role of libraries, and research libraries in particular, as key players in combating digital poverty amongst our users, audiences, and communities, and the institutional and collective actions we can take to do so.

Symposium speakers

The societal challenge and response:

Catherine Mills, Head of Digital Social Inclusion, The Good Things Foundation

Catherine Mills is Head of Digital Social Inclusion at Good Things Foundations. Good Things Foundation is a digital inclusion and social change charity whose aim is to close the UK’s digital divide and reduce inequalities. Catherine currently oversees a number of digital inclusion programmes and projects working in partnership with organisations such as Google.Org and J.P Morgan Chase Foundation as well as leading on the assisted digital projects for HMRC and HMCTs. Before joining Good Things Foundation, Catherine worked in public libraries for 17 years, working at both a regional and national level and was the English Public Library lead for eBooks on the IFLA eBook working group.

Hannah Holmes, Research Associate, Centre for Planning and Housing Research, University of Cambridge

Hannah Holmes is a Research Associate based in the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research (CCHPR), at the University of Cambridge. Her PhD, which she completed at Durham University, was focused on marginality and territorial stigma in a regeneration project in the North East of England, and she has a particular interest in marginal urban economies, gentrification and governance. More recently, her work on inequalities has extended to a consideration of what it means to be digitally excluded, and the implications of the digital divide.

Christopher Hale, Director of Policy, Universities UK

Chris Hale is Director of Policy at Universities UK, leading on the development and delivery of UUK’s policy work. Previous to taking up the Director role, Chris was Assistant Director at UUK and led on a number of areas of work including efficiency and effectiveness and the regulation of higher education. Chris has significant expertise in research policy, working as a policy adviser on this issue for UUK for a number of years.  Prior to working at UUK, Chris worked at the General Medical Council and holds a degree from the University of Sussex and MSc from University College London. He is also a governor of the Eliot Bank and Gordonbrock Schools Federation in south east London.

Perspectives – The role of libraries in combating digital poverty:

Sue Williamson, Director of Libraries, Arts Council England

Sue is the Director for Libraries for Arts Council England. A professional librarian in the public sector, she has many years’ experience in a variety of roles in public libraries, her previous role being Head of Library Services for St. Helens Borough Council. She has wide ranging experience of local government and chairs the English Public Libraries Strategic Working Group, the successor to the Libraries TaskForce. Sue is keen to capitalise on opportunities to position public libraries as strong partners in community focussed delivery and in the key areas of Learning and the four Public Library Universal Offers: Reading, Culture and Creativity, Information and Digital and Health and Well-Being.

Trevor Dawes, Vice Provost for Libraries and Museums and May Morris University Librarian / University of Delaware, US

Trevor A. Dawes has worked in the academic library sector for over 20 years developing and providing a range of service-enhancing training and professional development opportunities that positively impact library-wide projects and programs. Dawes also facilitates workshops on leadership development and diversity, improving the knowledge, skills, competencies, and abilities of librarians and library workers. A published author and presenter, Dawes has written or edited books, book chapters, and articles, and presented on a variety of topics at local, national, and international conferences.

Dawes earned his Master of Library Science from Rutgers University and has two additional Master’s Degrees in Educational Leadership and Educational Administration from Teachers College, Columbia University.

Joe Lucia, Dean of Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US

Joseph Lucia is Dean of Libraries at Temple University. Under his leadership, in 2019 the university completed construction and began operation of the world-class Charles Library, notable for its unique design by architects Snøhetta and local partners Stantec. Prior to serving as Dean at Temple, Lucia served as University Library at Villanova University for eleven years. During his tenure at Villanova, Falvey Library won the 2013 ACRL Excellence Award in the University category. Before assuming his post at Villanova in 2002, Lucia served as Director for Library Technology & Access within Information Resources (a merged library & computing support organisation) at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. While at Lehigh, Lucia taught creative writing in the English Department from 1995 through 2002. In addition to his professional work, he is an active amateur musician with a current solo project called Sounds from Upstairs audible at https://soundcloud.com/jlucia.