Last week I attended LDCX at Stanford University. Though the conference prides itself on the multiple interpretations of the abbreviation, it has in the past stood for “Library Developer Conference fill-in-your-own-X.” The L has grown to include the whole community of libraries, museums, galleries, and archives—essentially anyone tasked with the stewardship of cultural artifacts and records.
I first attended the annual conference last year as a way to get to know my colleagues at Stanford University Libraries. I was only three months into my position at the Press, and since part of my job entailed investigating strategies for preservation and archiving of the digital work we were publishing, I used the opportunity to find out more about the world of library archiving practices. Because SUP is part of the library, it only made sense to start there; and luckily they are the perpetual hosts of this conference dedicated to sharing advancements and knowledge in the preservation of, in particular, digital content.
Like last year, this year’s meeting was set up as an unconference, meaning attendees spend the first part of the first day establishing objectives and topics for discussion. It can seem a little chaotic to the unversed unconference goer, but in fact, the schedule came together quite nicely and in a format that allowed easy planning and note tracking. Through the Sched interface, attendees of every session could share their collaborative notes, and by the end of the three days, we had quite a robust archive of the many sessions and their outcomes. Even if you had to miss a session, you could easily fill yourself in via the live updated google docs linked to every session in the online schedule.
One key difference from last year’s event was the building in of distinct tracks. These tracks ranged from Data to Front-Ends to AI to Digital Preservation. The most exciting track in my mind was Web Archiving. As readers of this blog already know, I’ve been playing quite a bit with Webrecorder over the past year, and in fact it was at last year’s LDCX that I first met team members from that project. While my Webrecorder friend was back again this year, the two of us and one other person were the only ones who showed up to the first track planning session. Because of the low interest, and to our disappointment, we were absorbed into the larger and more general Digital Preservation track, which ended up covering a few interesting philosophical topics but ultimately nothing too specifically helpful to my project with the Press. Nevertheless, it offered me a chance to get the lay of the land in terms of preservation software and workflows common to library initiatives. And it introduced me to people and programs whose progress I hope to follow.
In addition to the tracks, there were also several proposed independent sessions, and I found plenty of interesting conversation in these impromptu groups. One early session dealt with diversity and inclusivity within the work environment, and it was great to hear how aware cultural memory institutions are of the importance of supporting and empowering often marginalized groups and individuals. The conversation started with a reference to the recent Code4Lib keynote by Chris Bourg, which in turn led to a very impassioned yet sensitive discussion about how to listen and not speak and how to know when each is appropriate.
When I wasn’t in a session, I was able to catch up with colleagues I hadn’t seen in a while and meet new people whose interests intersected with my own. Even though the web-archiving track was lost in the shuffle, I was able to get a one-on-one demo of some of the latest features of Webrecorder, and I got to chat with several people in our own library who are invaluable to our explorations of archiving solutions. And in the middle of everything I was able to sneak away for an hour to catch a completely unrelated but nicely complementary webinar by Klaus Rechert on Emulation as a Service, yet another preservation solution I’ve been looking into quite a bit over the past few months.
In the end, with the energy all the attendees brought to conversations, the excellent food and drinks, the willingness of no-longer-strangers to bike beside me to the reception venue, the knowledgeable and generous collegiality of the hosts, and the well-equipped conference facilities, it was once again a very productive and rewarding LDCX. I’m fortunate it’s right here every year, and I’m already looking forward to the next time!
Jasmine Mulliken is Production and Preservation Manager, Digital Projects, at Stanford University Press. She coordinates the production and preservation workflow of born-digital projects, including recommending platforms and coding standards to authors, consulting with authors on projects’ technical attributes, and evaluating best practices for archiving and preservation.