Assessment:Cultural Assessment

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DLF Cultural Assessment Working Group

This sub-group of the DLF Assessment Interest Group (DLF AIG) was formed in February 2016 to discuss ways by which we may assess our digital collections and their cultural impact. Members of the DLF AIG for Cultural Assessment aim to first identify institutional data and practices that may be relevant to building a robust understanding of “cultural assessment.” Then, the group will investigate and attempt to surface underlying assumptions within our data and practices to help the community better understand the social structures that both influence our work and result from it. Ideally, the group will develop helpful and nuanced rubrics for institutional measurement and analysis of cultural biases and assumptions. The DLF AIG Cultural Assessment group intends to raise awareness of cultural bias and institutional “blind spots,” as well as recommend a set of data points, to create more inclusive cultures within DLF member organizations.

We will explore whether and how cultural biases/assumptions are embedded in:

  • materials we have available in physical collections - special collections, institutional archives;
  • in librarians’ and archivists’ selections of what to digitize;
  • in the requests their patrons and communities make for content;
  • in choices about levels of digitization and preservation;
  • in metadata-creation/descriptive activities;
  • and in decisions about how/when/whether we publicize collections and make them discoverable.

with the understanding that biases and assumptions have concrete impact on digital library collections and services.

2017 Annotated Bibliography

The Cultural Assessment Group recently published their first draft of an annotated bibliography reflects research that is helpful for framing the notion of cultural assessment in the cultural heritage sector with a particular focus on digital libraries. Resources include detailed legislation for cultural heritage stewardship, collaborative cross-cultural case studies, and articles focused on the current methods of digital collection creation. We drew much inspiration from the Social Inclusion Audit and the Balanced Value Impact Model among others.

Published bibliography can be found here

Special Thanks to the following Authors and Contributors:
Diana Marsh
Hannah Scates Kettler
Kate Joranson
Liz Lorang
Lorrie McAllister
Rachel Trent
Ricky Punzalan
Sara Rubinow
Sharon Farnel
Susan Barrett

The group is also soliciting feedback and additional resources in the running bibliography, in an attempt to make the resource more broadly applicable (i.e. not solely focused on North America). Any one can add to and comment on the bibliography. We only ask you do NOT DELETE any items.

Ongoing Public Bibliography

The [DLF Cultural Assessment Interest Group][1] welcomes feedback and comments on GitHub.

Current Projects:

The Cultural Assessment group is moving away from the 5 subgroups in order to pursue an environmental scan of the use of metrics in Cultural Assessment. The group hopes to develop a set of metrics specifically for use in the cultural heritage sector to evaluate their digital collection cultural affinities and gaps, and how one might apply metrics to practices of digital collection creation (see previous projects for an idea on said practices).

Over the next year, the group will:

  • Create an overarching workflow for cultural heritage digital collection creation
  • Contextualize digital collection creation workflows within cultural heritage institution organizational structures
  • Develop / articulate personas and narratives that would accompany an eventual Cultural Assessment Toolkit
  • Discuss and articulate form and function of the toolkit

There are possible collaborations here with several of the DLF Assessment Working Groups including Metadata, User Experience, and Analytics. The group is welcome and encourages collaboration with people and groups who may be impacted by this work. Feel free to reach out if you have ideas. As the year progresses, the Cultural Assessment group will reach out to groups who they see as having an interest and invite them to participate.

Such groups include (running list):

  • Internet Archive / "IA/DLF Inclusive Curation Project"
  • DLF AIG User Experience (UX) Interest Group
  • IMLS Forum Grant recipients - Design for Diversity: An IMLS National Forum at Northeastern University Grant website
  • Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums association website
  • Others

Selection Workflow for Inclusive Curation"

In 2017, the Cultural Assessment group drafted a selection workflow framework that is articulated in broad strokes to be used across many types of institutions, e.g., academic libraries, museums, historical societies. The workflow outlines areas of potential cultural friction in the selection process and creates a supporting bibliography (using the group's 2016 annotated bibliography for reference).

This draft framework document has two purposes:

  1. To inform the Internet Archive’s book selection process for its Open Libraries Initiative (a MacArthur Foundation 100%Change semi-finalist project in which DLF has partnered).
  2. To serve as a resource on best practices for Digital Library Federation member institutions and the broader digital library community.

The framework aims to define parts of a digital collection selection workflow for public cultural heritage and academic institutions, in alignment with the mission of the DLF Cultural Assessment working group.

Part of the framework included an open survey requesting digital selection workflows (graphic and text description) from information institutions. The number of responding institutions was small (13 total), but substantive results were obtained. The group plans to expand the breadth and scope of the survey in 2018.

Open Survey Results

  • Selection and digitization decisions in responding institutions are made by a mix of donors or internal library staff, not by designated selection committees.
  • The majority of responding institutions are not relying on codified, published policies that govern selection of cultural materials.
  • A majority of responding institutions prioritize decisions based on staff or space capacity, not on collecting priority. Most consider the institution’s collection strengths and importance of the materials prior to accepting new materials.
  • A majority of respondents indicate that selection and digitization decisions are made by individuals, not by appointed committees.
  • Selection for digitization is prioritized by appraised value, fragility or rarity of materials, and materials that are already part of the institution’s collections.
  • Most responding institutions are not actively seeking new materials.
  • Collection agendas are dictated by collection development policies that reflect physical collections and do not stand on their own as born-digital or digital-only collection policies.

See the [Wiki files][2] for detailed documentation.

Past Projects:

The Cultural Assessment Group, in its first year, conducted an environmental scan about the cultural surrounding the creation of digital collection in the cultural heritage sector. The result of the first year of group work is a fully annotated bibliography concentrated on the formation of digital collections, the workflows required to create them, and the cultural responsibilities and consideration surrounding their selection, description, discovery and representation of communities. This is not an exhaustive bibliography, but represents the accomplishment of the first several months of work. The fully annotated bibliography can be found here, with full citation should you wish to use it. Additionally, feel free to add items of interest to the running bibliography here. Demarcate the ones you have added so they are not missed during annotation. Thank you in advance!

Annotated Bibliography

Define Cultural Assessment in collaboration between librarians, archivists and anthropologists in a way that applies to digital collection development and dissemination. The outcome will be an annotated bibliography that will help set the stage to further discussions about cultural and social responses of library digital collections and potential biases in information structuring and management. The project alos entails compiling the bibliographies and initial findings for the other sub-topics and coordinating the eventual creation of the Cultural Assessment Interest Group white-paper.

The Annotated Bibliography Group met biweekly on Mondays 12:00pm Central Time beginning Aug until Nov. 2016 (see working documents)

Metadata & Description Practices

Outline potential measures and standards for metadata and description activities that allow our digital collections to be culturally aware. Metadata, in this context does not only refer to Subject Headings (like those maintained by the Library of Congress) but may also include folksonomies and ontologies. The intent is to uncover ways metadata is currently being produced, identify ways in which one might determine the cultural awareness of metadata and descriptions (if possible), and by pointing to work that intends to expand the boundary of metadata, like the Mukurtu Project (, develop a set of recommendations on how to generate metadata that is culturally responsible.

The Metadata Group met bi-weekly on Monday's at 11:00am CDT beginning on Aug until Nov. 2016 (see working documents)

Selection & Digitization

Investigate how institutions of higher education select materials for digitization and how they are prioritized. We will research metrics and decision-making workflows as well as the underlying assumptions regarding selection and decision-making throughout the beginning stages of the digitization process.

The Selection & Digitization Group met biweekly on Mondays at 12:00pm Central Time beginning Aug. until Nov. 2016 (see working documents)

Levels of Digitization and Preservation

Investigate how libraries (which may include archives) determine levels of digitization and preservation for digital collections. This may include a review of how groups are formed to make these decisions, how decision-making groups make determinations about levels of digitization and preservation, and how these decisions are communicated. We will think about how these decisions may be evaluated for cultural factors and influences and/or what impact these decisions may have on various communities.

The Digitization & Preservation Group met bi-weekly on Mondays at 11:00am Central Time /beginning Aug. until Nov. 2016 (see working documents)

Publicizing Collection and Discoverability

Investigate how libraries (which may include special collections and/or archives) make their collections discoverable and how they publicize collections. This may include how to identify constituents, stakeholders and customers; to craft custom communications; to apply descriptive metadata for searching and sharing in an effort to conquer the digital divide. Publicizing and discoverability should also include considerations for selecting discovery platforms and tools, defining methods to present collections, and user interactions with collections, and “usability”. Defining the standards for community demographics, marginalized and underrepresented groups, and representation of diverse communities within the collections is needed for qualitative and quantitative assessment.

The Publicizing and Discoverability Group meets bi-weekly on Tuesdays at 11:00am Central Time beginning Aug. 16 (see working documents)

Get Involved

Meeting Schedule

The Cultural Assessment Group will meet every two weeks beginning Wednesday January 25, 2017 at 11am CT (UTC -5) via Skype for Business.

Join Skype Meeting

Trouble Joining? Try Skype Web App

Join by phone +1 319 467 1100 (Iowa City) English (United States) Find a local number

Conference ID: 5319122


Jan 25, 2017
Feb 8, 2017
Feb 22, 2017
Mar 8, 2017
Mar 22, 2017
Apr 5, 2017
Apr 19, 2017
May 3, 2017
May 17, 2017
May 31, 2017
Jun 14, 2017
Jun 28, 2017
Jul 12, 2017
Jul 26, 2017
Aug 9, 2017
Sep 13, 2017
Sep 27, 2017
Oct 11, 2017
Oct 25, 2017
Nov 8, 2017
Nov 22, 2017
Dec 20, 2017

(re-evaluate regular time for start of semester)

All meeting notes will be posted using Google Docs and will be demarcated by date (

Social Media

Join our Google group or contact group chair Hannah dash s dash Kettler at uiowa dot edu.

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