Communing in Columbus: The final Community Webs summit

January 23rd, 2019

by Maria Praetzellis, Program Manager, and Sylvie Rollason-Cass, Web Archivist, Internet Archive

Cohort members from the 27 participating public libraries gathered at the Columbus Metropolitan Library for their yearly summit, and to mark the second (and final) year of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) funded Community Webs program. The Community Webs program provides education, applied training, and web archiving services for public librarians to develop expertise in web archiving for the purpose of local memory collecting. During this day long session, participants shared their web archiving successes, challenges, and everything in-between. Here are some highlights of the day.

Photo of the Community Webs cohort members at the Columbus Metropolitan Library

Community Webs cohort members at the Columbus Metropolitan Library

Discussion sessions on sustainability, technology, and public engagement provided the principle structure for the day. The web archiving learning curve was a hot topic during the technology and training session. Many participants struggled with the sense that they have to, as one succinctly put it, “hurry up and wait” when building their web archive collections. The time between starting a crawl and coming back to view its results and start new crawls, for example, can often be long enough that they felt the need to reacquaint themselves with the processes multiple times before they perfected it. Several participants mentioned the idea of bringing in volunteers to help with the quality assurance of the archived sites. This would have the added benefits of promoting the program to new participants and taking some of the work off of library staff, however it would also require additional training materials and workflows aimed at this group. Participants are starting to think about what these resources might look like.

Another significant topic of the day centered around collection development policies for web archives. Given that web archiving was a new endeavor for the majority of participants, a first step was to examine existing collection policies and determine how web archiving fit it (or didn’t). Some found creating a new policy unnecessary and instead simply adapted existing policies. Others developed their first born-digital collection development policies or made significant adaptations to their policies so as to include collecting web content. We are currently assembling these policies and will post them on the Community Webs website when they’re available. In the meantime, recordings and materials created as part of Community Webs training on collection development are available here.

Outreach to both create awareness and garner participation were identified as equally important, though they often necessitated different strategies. Many organizations started with local promotion to introduce the program via their website. Participants from larger library systems identified the importance of focusing some of their outreach internally to build organization-wide interest in their project. When working with external groups, many found success by reaching out directly to neighborhood organizations, community groups, and even individuals, either by emailing or attending meetings in person. Attempts to generate interest using in-person or web-based website nomination forms were generally found to be less successful than targeted outreach. Recordings of prior trainings on the topic of community engagement are available here on the program’s website.

Summit participants also discussed the topic of program sustainability, including the importance of integrating web archiving activities into their existing work via expanded collection development policies, departmental best practice manuals, including web archiving in job descriptions, and membership in national or international consortia for knowledge sharing. A recent Community Webs training centered around the topic of sustainability and featured an excellent presentation by Katherine Skinner, introducing Educopia’s new Community Cultivation Model. A recording of the talk is available here.

The summit concluded with a planning session surrounding the development of a white paper to include the outcomes of the Community Webs program, lessons learned, and a vision of the future of web archiving in public libraries. Work on the paper has started and is scheduled to be completed by the middle of 2019.

Putting a capstone on the day, one participant summarized her approach to web archiving, “make it fun or make it urgent… make it furgent.” Words to remember, as we continue the work of archiving local history as found on web.

Please check our project website for updates and new Community Webs training materials!