Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln


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Book chapter from ACRL BOOK: Applying Library Values to Emerging Technology: Tips and Techniques for Advancing within Your Mission


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License, CC BY


Digital library infrastructures must not simply work. They must also manifest the core principles of libraries and archives. Since 2014, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has engaged with stakeholders from diverse library communities to consider collaborative approaches to building digital library tools and services. The “national digital platform” for libraries, archives, and museums is the framework that resulted from these dialogs.1 One key feature of the national digital platform (NDP) is the anchoring of core library principles within the development of digital tools and services. This essay explores how NDP-funded projects enact library principles as part of the national framework. The NDP represents the combination of software applications, social and technical infrastructures, and staff expertise that provide digital content, collections, and services to users. As libraries, archives, and museums increasingly provide expansive access to digital information, opportunities increase for collaboration around the tools and services libraries employ to meet user needs. Each cultural institution around the country can leverage and benefit from shared digital services and systems. A focus on building and supporting collective infrastructures is a key element of much NDP work; another critical aspect of this work is ensuring those tools, services, and systems exemplify the core principles of librarianship. Librarian and archivist principles have been articulated and refined over time in the work of professional associations, including the American Library Association (ALA) and the Society of American Archivists (SAA). The ALA values are summarized as: access, confidentiality and privacy, democracy, diversity, education and lifelong learning, intellectual freedom, public good, preservation, professionalism, service, and social responsibility.2 The SAA’s core values of archivists encompass: access and use, accountability, advocacy, diversity, history and memory, preservation, professionalism, responsible custody, selection, service, and social responsibility.3 These professional principles are evident in the work that librarians and archivists do to enhance and improve the NDP. In this essay, the IMLS’s NDP program staff describe why a focus on principles became a core feature of the NDP platform framework. We demonstrate how these professional approaches intersect by highlighting projects in four thematic areas: connectivity and digital access, data privacy in civic and digital literacy, digital collections by and for diverse communities, and information access through eBooks. These four areas are neither mutually exclusive nor exhaustive of the work undertaken by NDP grantees, nor do they systematically cover each principle. Instead, the examples illustrate the ways library principles inform the focus of NDP work and the manner in which the work is conducted. We describe these recently funded projects to present a principle-driven framework for future development of library tools and services. The NDP is intended as an approach to all community work on digital library infrastructures, not just IMLS-supported work. Before reviewing individual projects, we provide a short discussion of the central role principles play in the design and development of technical infrastructures.