DLF Project Managers Toolkit

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This toolkit is a collaborative project, based on contributions by members of the Digital Library Federation's Project Managers Group (DLF PMG). First initiated by Jennifer Vinopal at New York University in February 2013, the toolkit has grown and evolved over the years as a living document to share experiences and link out to resources.

  • What? A crowdsourced collection of information, tips, techniques, and tools for project managers working in digital libraries. Please contribute and share your knowledge.
  • Why? Whether we realize it or not, librarians and library staff are managing projects all the time. These may be informal or formal projects, or we might not think of them as projects at all. Just the same, we could all stand to take a more organized and structured approach to planning and accomplishing our project work. Much of the project management literature and training frequently emphasizes a corporate perspective, which may not always be applicable to a library setting.
  • Who? Anyone who wants to contribute. Feel free to post anonymously if you prefer, or sign the contributors list at the end of the document.
  • How? Be generous with your knowledge and be respectful of what others have written. Share your experience and help others to learn from both your successes and failures.

To contribute, simply login then select the Edit tab. If you are a first time contributor, select ‘create account’ at the top right of the page. Then send a request to info@diglib.org to get access to edit pages, add links or share documentation. Then add your name to the Contributors List at the bottom of this page.

Getting started

Project Management Basics

Review a few Project Management Basics which are basic building blocks for the other sections of the toolkit.

Project Proposal Process

The Project Proposal Process initiates the project and is critical to planning.

Project Charters & Memorandum of Understandings

The goal of a Project Charter is to document agreement between all parties (sponsor, stakeholder, staff) about the goals, scope, and deliverables of the project. Ideally, the document defines time, scope and cost.

A Memorandum of Understanding can be used to build out a project charter and be used to manage expectations, project planning and increase transparency, communication and understanding. The University of Texas Arlington hosts a Memorandum of Understanding Collection which was developed by a group of librarians for library specific projects and includes a workbook and templates.

Project Plans

Project Plans flesh out more details of a project, such as scope; individual stakeholders; milestones and tasks, and roles and responsibilities within; and a timeline. It answers the same questions as a project charter, but often in more detail.

Project Scheduling

Project Scheduling captures the work that needs to be performed. It may also visualize the steps in the project. This section compares two methods: gantt charts versus kanban.


A workflow is a sequence of steps toward the completion of a defined task used to manage repetitive processes. Workflow modelling helps participants and stakeholders understand the sequence of steps and their roles in the process. It can also help identify patterns, gaps, and bottlenecks to enhance efficiency and improve team dynamics.[1]

Included are Examples of workflows contributed by different institutions and references.

Project Templates

Project Templates are useful for expressing information in a systematic manner, streamlining processes and saving time and energy. Templates can provide clearer communication and consistency across project. Included are templates provided by different institutions.

Project Retrospective

A project retrospective is held at the end of a development sprint as part of the agile process. It can also be held by project teams not following the agile methodology. It is a meeting where the purpose is for the project team to provide feedback on what went well and what didn’t go as well during the course of the project. Qualitative feedback is given on sticky notes in the form of Happy / Sad / Angry or Start / Stop / Continue - as examples, and clustered to identify themes. The themes are used to improve the work process going forward to the next cycle or phase of the project.

Project Sunsetting

For a wide variety of reasons, you may need to stop investing time and resources in a project before completion. In these cases, it is important to consider how to document the project close-out and communicate to the team and stakeholders.

Jason Ronallo, Bret Davidson. NCSU Libraries. Sunsetting: Strategies for Portfolio Management and Decommissioning Projects. https://ronallo.com/presentations/sunsetting-dlf/slides-single-page.html Digital Library Federation Forum, Pittsburgh, PA, October 23, 2017. https://sched.co/BzsO

Project Portfolio Management

Project portfolio management is the centralized management of processes, methods, and technologies used by project managers to analyze and collectively carry out current or proposed projects. Vinopal, Jennifer. Using Confluence for Project Portfolio Management at New York University. DLF Fall 2008. File:DLF2008Vinopal.pdf

Service Management

Service management refers to the broader strategies, policies, procedures to design, deliver, support, and manage services that bring value to an organization. Consider the four key components of value, outcomes, costs and risks.

Project Management Software

This section contains a list of tools for project management, with pros and cons for each.

Name Uses and Overview Pro Con
Asana Asana allows team members to collaborate on projects and track the progress of tasks. It works both for software development projects and other more generic projects.
  • Free (up to 15 members)
  • Great for task-based work
  • Works on mobile
  • If your team has over 15 members, you need to pay
  • Doesn't do as well with project discussion
  • Does not allow for private teams in the free version
  • No bug/issue tracking
Basecamp Basecamp allows collaborators to post messages, organize to-do lists and documents, and create group schedules. Related App: goplan
  • intuitive design
  • easy-to-use features
  • email integration
  • some calendar integration
  • the first project is free, but you need to pay after that point
  • scheduling support is limited
Trello Trello is an application for tracking tasks. It allows you to move individual cards (representing tasks) as they enter different phases. Trello allows you to assign tasks to different collaborators, create due dates, and provide contextual information for the tasks to be completed.

Used by: FSU Libraries

  • very similar to analog/paper SCRUM boards
  • feature-specific prioritization
  • bug tracking
  • useful for tracking action/discussion items from meetings
  • able to link or attach supporting documents to cards
  • showing the hierarchy of tasks not really possible
  • not able to easily produce a to-do list (i.e. from the user's end, a list of tasks that the user is assigned to)

Google Suite Google applications (specifically, Google Drive) is a suite of tools for creating documents collaboratively and sharing information. Google Apps include a text, spreadsheet, and slide editor, as well as applications for drawing, organizing calendars, and sharing (but not editing) other types of files.

Used by: FSU Libraries

  • easy to share documents with large teams for collaboration
  • easily searchable and organizable
  • you may need to use another tool to track/organize relevant documents, especially if there are a lot of them
  • can be worthwhile to set up standard naming conventions for files since it is so easy to create files and folders
  • if wireless is inconsistent, some files can be hard to access. use the desktop app to ensure off-line access and to organize or sync files
Pivotal Tracker Pivotal Tracker allows users to organize tasks by project and stories while integrating release dates and prioritization into the workflow.
  • helps organize agile project teams that cannot meet in person
  • only free for thirty days (paid plans)
Jira Issue tracking and project tracking software. JIRA allows teams to "create and estimate stories, build a sprint backlog, visualize activity, measure team velocity, and report on progress."
  • works well for teams who use Scrum project management methods
  • paid service ($10 for teams of up to 10; $75 and more for 15 teams and up)
Redmine Redmine allows you to track issues, latest project news, and organize projects by members and contributors. You can associate files with given projects, create Gantt charts and calendars, and create wikis to document projects. Redmine has a demo site that allows you to see how it looks in action.
  • open source
  • plug-ins allow for extensibility
  • Ability to manage multiple simultaneous projects
  • doesn't work well with projects that aren't typical software development projects
Slack Slack is a communication app for teams. It integrates with several of the project management tools on this list, and allows team members to communicate more easily and informally than through email.

Used by: FSU Libraries

  • allows for easy communication between entire organizations, small groups within the organization, and individual members
  • integrates with many other applications (e.g. Google Docs, JIRA, Trello, GitHub, etc.)
  • allows members to easily set up reminders, take notes-to-self, customize alerts
  • can be used on the web or via desktop app across devices
  • free version only has a 10,000 message capacity (older messages get deleted)
  • paid version has additional integrations such as single sign-on, customizable message retention period (ex. 90 day retention period or longer)
  • Slack users sharing files (on free or paid versions) may not understand that it is not a system of record to store information; if retaining message history is important for project documentation, threads can be exported and copied to project documentation
Smartsheet Smartsheet allows a team to collaborate and communicate with a spreadsheet-style interface. It allows for file sharing, alerts and reminders, the creation of Gantt charts, and other features that will help to organize your projects.
  • relatively simple (based on spreadsheets)
  • Customizable and flexible
  • links to other tools and services (like Google Docs)
  • paid service

Other general software-independent recommendations for project management

  • Wikis for project documents and documentation
  • Google Docs or another collaborative document editor for the creation of project charter, meeting notes, etc. with separate document (or folder) for meeting notes
  • Ticket-trackers
  • Planning Poker
  • After-Action Reviews or Retrospectives vis tools such as FunRetro or Stormboard
  • Scheduling using Doodle or Google Sheets is useful for tracking team members' schedules

Professional Development

Professional development is an ongoing part of a project management career. A successful project manager possesses a blended set of hard and soft skills acquired over time. Training is offered by the Project Management Institute and various local education providers.

Resources and Other Toolkits

There are lots of great articles, presentations and grey lit out there on project management and digital libraries.

We've created a Zotero Group library at https://www.zotero.org/groups/2205688/dlf_pmg? and encourage you to add more when you read something good.

DLF-PMG Discussions and webinars

Topic Date Facilitator(s) Format
Labor in Digital Work February 12-16, 2018 Robin Pike & Sarah Severson Multi-day discussion available through the listserv archive and summary
Tools for Project Management April 3-10, 2018 Christine Quirion Multi-day discussion available in full through the listserv archive and summary
Service and Portfolio Management August 13-17, 2018 Elizabeth German Multi-day discussion available through the listserv archive and summary
Project Portfolio Management Demo April 5, 2019 Cristela Garcia-Spitz Digital Initiatives Librarian Cristela Garcia-Spitz discussed project portfolio management and shared a demo of how digital projects are being tracked by the UC San Diego Library's Digital Library Development Program using Confluence and JIRA. She also covered some of the goals and challenges of portfolio management. The presentation recording is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UtLLmFWQeQ8 and the slides are available at: https://escholarship.org/uc/item/2bf7n6tp
Before Action Review January 10, 2020 Melissa Wisner The hour session provides an introduction to Before Action Reviews and how to facilitate meaningful intake collection with stakeholders by Melissa Wisner, the IT Project and Portfolio Management Librarian at NCSU Libraries. The presentation recording is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPq-6Zgh6kM


To contribute to the Project Managers Toolkit login at the top right of the page, then select the Edit tab. If you are a first-time contributor, select ‘create account’ at the top right of the page and send a request to info@diglib.org to get access to edit pages, add links, or share documentation. (We had to add in this step because the bots were getting us.) Then add your name to the Contributors List.

  • Andy Ashton, Brown University
  • Carolyn Caizzi, Northwestern University
  • Kathleen Cameron
  • Jason Casden, North Carolina State University
  • Tim Clarke, Muhlenberg College
  • Tom Cramer, Stanford University
  • Cristela Garcia-Spitz, UC San Diego Library
  • Joshua Honn, Northwestern University
  • Katherine Kott, Independent Consultant
  • Christine Malinowski, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Rafia Mirza, UT Arlington, TX
  • Lisa McAulay, UCLA
  • Sandra McIntyre, Mountain West Digital Library
  • Alan Pike, Emory Center for Digital Scholarship
  • Robin C. Pike, University of Maryland
  • Christine Quirion, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Sarah Severson, McGill University Library
  • Sarah Stanley, Florida State University
  • Joan Starr, California Digital Library
  • Becky Thoms, Utah State University Libraries
  • Micah Vandegrift, Florida State University Libraries
  • Jennifer Vinopal, New York University
  • Cliff Wulfman, Princeton University
  • Cynthia York, Johns Hopkins University
Interested in related resources? Check out DLF's Organizers' Toolkit!
  1. Shaw, E., Garcia-Spitz, C., Bragg, M., Hagedorn, K., & Porter, E. (2018). Finding the balance: Modelling successful workflows for digital library collections. Journal of Digital Media Management, 6(3), 295-311. Retrieved from [https://escholarship.org/uc/item/9h17g7fh]