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Three Years Out: Cultivating our Digital Content Management Community

Three years ago, I shared out some news about the newly created Digital Content Management Section. Our unit was just starting up and we had a lot in store for our future that I wanted to talk about on this blog.

Coming up on the third anniversary of that post, presents an opportunity to reflect on how our team has learned and grown together and the ways that we are working to support all our amazing colleagues across the fascinating and unique organization that is the Library of Congress. I hope this post celebrates the team and supports transparency about our work.

Developing and Enacting Our Values

DCM participating in a workshop to define shared section values

DCM staff participating in a workshop to define shared section values

As we got started, a priority was to be intentional about the culture we wanted to establish for our work. The team engaged in a process to define nine guiding values for our section; care, collaboration, craft, ingenuity, learning, safety, service, sustainability, and trust. Since developing those, we’ve been working on ways to integrate them into the rhythms and cadences of our meetings and practices. While the values have provided footing for our culture, the adoption of agile and scrum practices and ceremonies helps us coordinate our daily work operations.

Section staff iterate on specific and concrete ways to draw out our values in how work. For example, we build in time during retrospectives to explicitly synthesize how we can continue to improve our work to enact our values. Furthermore, our focus on the values of learning, ingenuity, and collaboration are directly realized in core practices of a scrum framework.

Learning and Improving Digital Collections Practice

I’m really proud of the work we’ve been able to tackle on digital collections management practice to date and some key blog posts highlight aspects of that work. In collaboration with talented staff across the Library, we published our policy framework for digital collections management. We’ve also worked collaboratively to document file formats. We also conducted analysis and experiments to better document the extent and nature content in our digital collections and understand what’s inside the Library of Congress Web Archives. We also supported experiments in collaboration with LC Labs to make datasets from the web archives.

While we took time to examine and explore the depths of our digital collections, we also  implemented and expanded practices for supporting acquisition, processing, preservation and access of collections of eBooks, of collections of datasets, and of a wide range of digitized materials, like the U.S. Telephone Directories collection. We’re also having a lot of fun supporting colleagues across the organization on making major progress on the Library of Congress Digital Collecting Plan.

Those blog posts provide a sample of the how and the what of the Digital Content Management section’s work and represent our values of craft and how we continue to refine our learning. Taking time to reflect and write up what we’ve learned is a critical part of our learning, collaboration, and communication process. It’s worth underscoring that those links in the last two paragraphs are just the things that made sense to broadcast out. They are just the tip of the iceberg. Most of our work is internally focused and we’ve been doing a lot to work to support community development and capacity building with our colleagues around the Library of Congress.

Maturing, Growing, and Evolving Together

DCM section staff and colleagues from the broader DCMS division participating in a section meeting.

DCM section staff and colleagues from the broader DCMS division participating in a recent section meeting.

I started that post three years ago talking about how we were a start-up and I think it’s fair to say at this point that is no longer the case. We are now supporting a lot of routine and ongoing operating functions and I’m continually impressed to see how folks across our teams are helping level up and routinize ensuring enduring access to digital content in collections. Along with growing in the areas we started working in, we were also lucky to have the By the People Team transition over from LC Labs team to our section and have been involved in supporting the continued dramatic growth of the program.

In the last year, as the whole section shifted into an all telework mode, I’ve been particularly proud of all the ways I have seen people on our teams care for each other, support each other, and extend that out to our colleagues across this organization. In that time we also had new team members join us in our completely virtual environment. You can read a bit about their thoughts and experiences joining the team here, here and here.

Along with that, I’m hugely grateful that as our work has evolved now that Camille Salas and Abbie Grotke have taken on additional responsibilities as Assistant Section Heads. Abbie is now supervising and supporting all the staff on the Web Archiving Team and Camille is supervising and supporting the team working on managing and processing general and international digital collections and providing guidance and policy support to special collections divisions. Everyone in our group benefits from having better ratios between individual contributors and supervisors. Supervisors are now better equipped to make sure that everyone on the team has opportunities to learn, grow, and feel safe and supported in their work.

Looking back at that post from three years ago, it’s fun to reflect on just how much I think the whole team has learned and grown together. It’s fun to think about how much more we will do and learn together with our colleagues across the organization in the next three years.

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