Last week, twenty U.S. GLAM professionals met at U.C. Berkeley to learn about openness, culture, and how we could become evangelists for a movement already gaining traction in Europe and elsewhere. The event was the brainchild of Sarah Stierch, US OpenGLAM Coordinator, and was sponsored by the OCLC, the Open Knowledge Foundation, and the University of California, Berkeley School of Information. For two solid days it was a heady mix of new ideas, inspiring examples of what others were already doing, and calls to action for the attendees to not only spread the word, but actually set concrete goals for opening up their own institutions.
For me, the workshop was successful on three counts. First, it delivered an awful lot of content in a short period of time on issues I knew I didn’t understand as well as I ought to understand them. The moral imperative of the commons stopped being an abstract for me, and also became a useful lens for examining a situation I’ve long been dissatisfied with – the invisibility of GLAM content online and the over-representation of commercial entities in online search. As GLAM professionals, we know that our institutions sit on enormous repositories of cultural information (some of it already in the public domain, and even digitized), and making those repositories open and findable is a valuable contribution to open culture. The speakers on both days did an admirable job of introducing allies like Wikipedia, Creative Commons, and the Open Knowledge Foundation, and their strengths, as well as pointing out online tools that already exist and tools that still need to be made by somebody (us?).
Second, I appreciated the ambition of the event. It was not a typical professional development event. It was explicitly geared toward developing evangelists for OpenGLAM, and generating a set of achievable goals for next 6 months that each participant could take back to their institutions. The expectations were pretty high (Go forth and spread the US OpenGLAM word!) and I was grateful for how readily everyone in the workshop stepped up to the challenge. I am excited to see how things unfold in the next six months! I am about to step into a new position in a new museum in a couple weeks, so I’ll be playing some mad catch-up, but I’m determined to not let the team down!
Third, the event did a great job of turning a group of people into a cohort. I knew several of the people beforehand, but now I have a network of twenty professionals I can turn to for advice, examples, and support. Part of our assignment for the workshop was developing a suite of resources to help GLAMs become more open, and we will be continuing to work in small groups to develop a First Steps list for GLAMs interested in getting started in open data culture, a toolkit of openGLAM resources for practitioners, and a quick one-page guide for practitioners to use to build institutional support for their own OpenGLAM efforts.
Expect to see more in the coming months! Already, efforts have gotten underway in a couple of institutions, and case studies should start to appear in the coming months, along with the resources the GLAMbassadors are still working on, conference presentations and more opportunities for others to join us. Before I went, a colleague asked me what twenty people could do in a weekend, and the answer seems to be, “A lot!” The main lesson I learned at the workshop was the truth of that saying attributed to Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”