Taking Note on the Digital Strategy Roundtable

This is a guest post by Nina Udagawa, a 2019 Digital Strategy Junior Fellow. A native of Chiba, Japan, Nina is a rising junior studying International Affairs and History at the George Washington University. In this post, she discusses her experience at the Library’s Digital Strategy Roundtable this June.

This year, the Digital Strategy Directorate at the Library of Congress hosted the inaugural Digital Strategy Roundtable event. This year’s event took place on June 6th and 7th. The Roundtable brought discussion and focus on the Library’s Digital Strategy—covering topics from innovative initiatives to increasing the accessibility of Library collections to growing user engagement.

This very event took place a week and a half into my time here at the Library of Congress as a Junior Fellow. On the first week, I helped with logistical tasks; this included working on preparing content and packets to pass out on the first day and attending meetings to grasp individual roles for the event. As I was a scribe for this event, I was able to be present for the table talks and presentations. This unique event was a great starting point for my summer here as I was able to comprehend the significance of the Digital Strategy at the Library.

On top of meeting the Roundtable members, I was able to meet more Library staff. This was because prior to the event, I attended a Digital Strategy Working Group meeting. This monthly meeting brings together members from different divisions of the Library to discuss ways to best-apply and provide digital strategy practices to their areas of expertise. At this meeting, I learned that I would be one of many scribes invited to take notes at a single table discussion (image to the right). Since I had comparable experience working for other organizations in DC through my previous internship, I was well-aware of the importance of the team having clear notes so they could look back on the Roundtable event and extract whatever was necessary. Therefore, I made an effort to ensure there was a scribe at each table and filled in for tables which did not have a scribe present.

Men and women sitting around a table with papers in front of them.

Roundtable members talking to one another during a table discussion. Picture by Shawn Miller.

Throughout my time as a note-taker, I was positively overwhelmed by the fruitful discussions taking place and the expertise of our Roundtable members. From my perspective, the event was a major success! We were able to hear a multitude of perspectives relevant to the Library’s Digital Strategy. As I was new to the application of Digital Strategy in institutions, it was a great experience to hear how others execute their digital strategy and how this applied to the Library.

One of the most intriguing aspects of this event was hearing the lightning talks (picture to the left) by Roundtable members on digital strategy practices they’ve seen and experienced. We heard a variety of ideas—from Joichi Ito discussing serendipity as a basis for experimentation at the MIT Media Lab, to Mia Ridge discussing the British Library’s “Living with Machines” projects as data science joins library and archival collections.

A woman standing by a podium presenting to a room of people seated at round tables.

Christine Borgman presenting her Lightning talk to Roundtable members.
Picture by Shawn Miller.

The week after the Roundtable Event, I contacted members of the Digital Strategy Working Group and other staff volunteers to gather notes from the Roundtable. I was surprised to see many, even those who were not scribes, took notes from different parts of the day. I ended up with a vast quantity of information. How was I going to summarize the main points from the many discussions that took place in these two days?

First, I created a format to compile all of this information in one place. While it was important to make the information digestible, I knew it would be beneficial for the team to also have a copy of the raw notes. As all members were divided into separate tables with designated note-takers, gathering and organizing all of the information was simple. But after glancing through the notes, I found that the level of detail noted and discussion topics varied heavily; ranging from summarizing main points raised during the table talks, to had detailed accounts of the discussions taking place.

After this review, I started my project. I began with my conclusion that next year, a guide ought to be sent out to note takers to give staff-volunteers to convey what information the digital strategy team wanted to extract. As I was a note-taker myself, I added recommendations for further direction. This ensured that the Digital Strategy team had apt material to follow up on with each of the Roundtable members.

The guide I created provided more direction for table leads on how to facilitate their table for increased discussion, as well as traditional duties of note takers. I recommended that this approach would have allowed the Digital Strategy team to ask for specific information—such as partnerships—rather than broad discussions. Additionally, and even with the dense nature of the notes which were provided, I was able to condense all of the findings from the day into a 3 page document; representing dominant themes and opportunities for follow up with Roundtable members.

I found the Roundtable equally deeply informative and highly enjoyable! One of the key highlights for me was the reception that was held afterwards at the Member’s Dining Room at the United States Capitol after the first day. It was great to be able to speak to the Roundtable members personally about their experiences in their respective fields. I was especially grateful to get to hear from Victor Udoewa, the Director of Strategy from 18F, about his experience doing work in China, where I will be studying abroad in the fall.

As my summer here at the Library continued, I frequently looked back on the Roundtable. When I would work with members of the Digital Strategy team on different projects, I remembered the passion of the Roundtable members and team in furthering the Library’s Digital Strategy. As a history major myself, it was inspiring to see the dedication of both Library and non-Library members in finding new ways to broaden the reach and impact of the Library of Congress..