This document describes the scope and key design features of the Design for Diversity teaching and learning toolkit. It is intended to provide an initial framework for the Core Design Group to discuss, modify, and reach consensus on the philosophy, scope, and final shape of the toolkit. It will also provide design guidance for developers and partners working to implement the toolkit and integrate it into other environments.

Goals and Scope

The toolkit will be designed to:

  • ● Frame pedagogy around analysis of a growing set of concrete real-world examples
  • ● Empower readers to examine specific cases critically and gain an understanding of how specific environments and circumstances shape technical and design outcomes
  • ● Avoid language of “best practices” in favor of contextualized and situated practices
  • ● Support active learning through a format that encourages interaction, problem-based learning, and critical thinking skills
  • ● Support exploration of the relation between theory and practice, and also the revision or nuancing of theoretical frameworks through evidence from specific cases
  • ● Support both direct use by learners and use by instructors who might guide others in its use
  • ● Encourage cross-disciplinary approaches and conversation, and new experiments that draw on work across disciplines/domains beyond the LIS/LAM fields

“Design for diversity” is a potentially enormous topic. This initiative responds to a specific angle on the problem: it comes from the perspective of large research libraries which are taking on (and being asked to take on) responsibility for developing/supporting large-scale infrastructure for cultural information.

While we hope the toolkit will be broadly useful and want to include case studies and perspectives from fields outside LIS/LAM, we also understand that we may not fully represent the perspective of those in small museums, local historical societies, or community archives.

Furthermore, the version of the toolkit that is produced under the first Design for Diversity grant (2017-18) will be a prototype: it is not an attempt to map out the entire domain, but a way of outlining and populating an initial map with exemplary, suggestive, and inspiring instances that suggest how the rest of the map could be filled in.

In considering “diversity” we assume intersectionality as a core design principle: for instance, even if a specific case study focuses on race, we assume we can also learn something about other categories of identity from studying it. At the same time, we also understand the importance of attending to the ways in which specific categories of identity are distinctive and pose distinctive challenges. As the toolkit grows, we hope to populate it with a fuller and fuller set of stories in which we can learn from deeply situated practice.



Because of its funding source and the kinds of expertise it draws on, the toolkit will be aimed primarily at an audience of professionals in the broad domains of libraries, museums, archives, and cultural heritage information, with particular focus on academic libraries. However, it will draw on relevant examples and research from other domains and as a result may be illuminating to those working in other fields as well.

A few key design principles and scenarios concerning audience:

Support non-specialists: We want to aim for explanations and terminology that address a non-specialist audience as much as possible (with links to further information where necessary).
Support varied expertise and roles: We also want to address an audience with widely varying levels of technical expertise and in a wide range of professional roles

Support new teachers and curricula: An important goal of the toolkit is pedagogical and curricular change. We want the toolkit to support new faculty, faculty developing new curricula, practitioners who are trying to share their knowledge via new workshops, and others who may need guidance and inspiration on curriculum design and on how the Toolkit might fit in.

Support varied levels of buy-in: While we can anticipate that many users of the toolkit will be educators who seek resources to help them teach issues of social justice and diversity, we also want the toolkit to be an influential resource for people who position themselves as skeptics or who just want to learn more.

Support empowerment of those in structurally disadvantaged roles (e.g. tribal communities, members of “studied” populations, creators of “studied” artifacts and records): We do not assume users will have access to developers, and we do not assume users will want to partner with cultural heritage institutions. We want the toolkit to consider both how members of those populations can empower themselves in relation to the technologies of information management, and also how those in information management roles can design their projects and systems to respect and empower those partners in cases where a partnership is undertaken.

We anticipate and seek to support many different specific roles and motivations for working with the toolkit including:

People in pedagogical roles, including faculty, workshop leaders, those in mentoring roles. Information from the toolkit can help people in these roles gain a fuller understanding of how different parts of these complex systems interact (and the social impact of that interaction), including components that may lie outside of their immediate expertise. The toolkit itself can serve as a source of curricular material and ideas for specific classroom activities and assignments. Specific case studies can also demonstrate innovative pedagogical strategies and opportunities for teaching and mentoring in unconventional environments.

People whose work involves using cultural heritage information systems to create information (cataloguers, metadata librarians, archivists, curators). Information from the toolkit can help people in these roles understand where systems exercise constraint, how those constraints can be adapted or worked around, and how social processes (such as decision-making and work flow design) can affect the impact of these constraints. This knowledge can also strengthen these practitioners’ effectiveness in articulating their own needs (e.g. in discussions with developers, technical support, or those making purchasing decisions). Specific case studies can also provide models for emulation, warnings about how to avoid pitfalls, and precedent to build upon.

People responsible for or involved in purchasing decisions for information systems and tools. Information from the toolkit can help people in these roles understand how to interrogate and assess specific systems (what questions to ask, what concessions to wish for, where to push, what is and is not feasible, how to negotiate). Specific case studies can also provide examples of what has and has not worked in comparable contexts.

People in technical development and technical support roles, including both those working for vendors on tools that will be sold widely, and those working as in-house developers of local systems (e.g. in libraries and museums). Information from the toolkit can help people in these roles understand both the social impact of technical design decisions, and also the varied types of information and modes of usage they need to anticipate for the tools they create and support. Specific case studies can also serve as a source of usage scenarios.

People in learning roles, including those involved in formal courses and workshops and also those who are exploring the field on their own or seeking to gain insight into a specific problem. Information from the toolkit can help people in these roles get oriented in the problem space, find places where others have experienced similar challenges, and explore topics of interest with support from the glossary and other supporting materials. Specific case studies and exemplary projects can also provide examples of useful experimentation to build on.

People responsible for developing policy around curriculum development, community engagement, curatorial practices, and any other area represented in the toolkit’s resources. Information from the toolkit can help people in these roles understand the scope of impact on questions of social justice from the broad domain of information tools and systems, and the toolkit itself can serve as a useful reference point and source of examples and research. Specific case studies can illustrate the concrete impact and effectiveness of specific practices and may suggest small-scale experiments that are worth scaling up.

People in community organizations or other groups who are typically the “object” of archiving and information-gathering, who are seeking to reverse that vector of power and take on a role of partnership or leadership in their relations with archives and other information-gathering efforts. Information from the toolkit can help people in these roles identify successful efforts and the strategies and circumstances that made a difference, and can also provide empowering knowledge and expertise that may strengthen the position of people in these roles as they work and negotiate with institutional agencies and potential partners/collaborators.

People from any domain who are interested in learning about how the working spaces and tools of cultural information affect the ways in which we perceive, consume, create, and manage culture through information systems. Information from the toolkit can offer a wide-ranging and inspiring first look at the social justice impacts of information tools, and specific case studies may offer people a sense of where they could start learning more or taking action through local engagement.

Community orientation and dissemination

The Design for Diversity toolkit is intended to be a community-driven and community-supported resource. The initial set of case studies is authored by a wide range of practitioners and scholars drawn from the communities we have identified as primary users of the toolkit; all toolkit resources are being reviewed at several stages through open calls for comment. At the end of the funded D4D initiative, the toolkit will be published and hosted by the Digital Library Federation as a contributory resource that can be further expanded and shaped by its communities of users. Materials from the toolkit will also be disseminated from the Digital Scholarship Group website and we will seek partnerships with other community organizations to disseminate materials through other venues so as to reach as wide an audience as possible.



The toolkit consists of several main types of components (which are more fully described further down):

  • ● A collection of case studies
  • ● A set of readings (articles, books, blog posts, project reports, etc.)
  • ● An annotated set of exemplary projects and curricula
  • ● An annotated listing of communities and organizations where cultural heritage practitioners can connect with others on specific topics relevant to Design for Diversity
  • ● Orientation materials on using the toolkit: e.g. scoping, guidance on curriculum design, guidance on persuasion (i.e. working with resistant or unfamiliar audiences
  • ● A glossary of technical concepts with links to resources for further learning
  • ● A set of synthetic ”study paths” that provide a way into these materials by grouping together selected resources and providing some questions, analysis, activities, or other forms of engagement with them. Study paths should offer both a pedagogical study path (e.g. a course module, an assignment) and also prompts aimed at a self-guided learner engaged in self-empowerment or further study.
  • ● A bibliography of all resources in the toolkit including readings, case studies, tools, exemplary projects and curricular materials, and other resources
  • ● Mechanisms for user-contributed resources such as curricular examples, audio/video of classroom experiences, records of experiments (which might arise from classroom projects)

Case studies, pedagogical study paths, readings, and exemplary projects and curricula will have associated metadata to assist in organization and discovery including:

  • ● A small set of broad topic areas
  • ● A larger and finer-grained set of thematic keywords (using a controlled vocabulary to be developed) such as specific identity categories, areas of specialization, and research issues that cut across the broad topic areas
  • ● Basic Dublin Core metadata (creator, creation date, possibly other fields)
  • ● For the study paths, two additional fields describing the mode and genre of the path


Specific Components



The smallest individual units of information and narrative which the toolkit offers are “resources”: items of study that can be combined in many different ways. They are the raw materials from which teachers and learners might develop curricula and self-guided study paths.

The toolkit includes several different types of resources:

  • ● Case studies are short (about 1000-2500 word), concrete reflections on real-world challenges and examples, providing grounded examples for students and professionals to think with. In relation to more theoretical and speculative readings, the case studies offer specific, situated knowledge arising from practitioner experience. Case studies explore how a particular situation and set of outcomes were shaped by local circumstances (cost constraints, people, work practices, content, environment, audience, etc.) and yield insight into the impact of specific factors and influences. These studies are recruited via a widely distributed call for proposals as well as invitations to individual projects and researchers. Our goal is to have approximately 25-50 case studies by the conclusion of the D4D grant period.
  • ● The readings list is a collection of readings on topics relevant to the D4D topic areas, including articles, books, websites, reports, standards, and other materials. It is stored as a Zotero library with topical keywords to assist in searching and organization. Depending on the size of the bibliography, we may develop a shorter annotated bibliography of especially relevant readings.
  • ● Model projects are projects (including digital publications but also practical initiatives such as cataloguing efforts or educational programs) from which teachers and learners can derive valuable examples and prompts for reflection. To be included, projects of this kind should have some visible, legible online presence that can be examined, ideally via documentation, a user interface, or some other material. (If the project is chiefly discoverable via a published article, it would also be represented in the Bibliography, and in some cases it may also be represented in a case study.)
  • ● Model curricula are pedagogical scenarios (including workshops, formal courses, degree programs, individual course modules and assignments, etc.) from which teachers and learners can derive examples on which to model further pedagogy. To be included in the toolkit, these materials should involve some consideration of issues of social justice and diversity in relation to the management of cultural information (broadly speaking).
  • ● Communities of practice are places (either in-person, such as conferences, or online, such as email lists) where issues of inclusion in cultural heritage information systems are discussed.

All resources are also listed in the D4D Bibliography, which is currently maintained in Zotero.


Study paths

While the “resources” described above will be browsed and explored directly (through keywords and listings), to support the specifically pedagogical goals of D4D the toolkit also provides pedagogical “study paths” into the material that are intended to suggest how teachers and learners might use the toolkit’s resources in courses and workshops (for instance, as part of a prompt for a written assignment or an in-class discussion), and also for self-guided study.

The study paths are small pedagogical units (analogous to course modules or units, sessions in a workshop, or individual learning activities) that combine one or more resources with descriptive elements such as assignment prompts, discussion topics, or study questions, to provide a complete prompt for a specific pedagogical activity. So for instance, a study path on metadata design might reference a reading (e.g. Billey et al.) and suggest discussion questions that ask learners to consider two different case studies (e.g. one focused on race and one focused on disability) in relation to the questions raised by the article. Another study path using the same resources might describe an assignment or in-class activity in which learners experiment with developing an exemplary controlled vocabulary that addresses the critiques of RDA discussed in the Billey article, and then discuss their results. While the study paths will address specific pedagogical scenarios, they will also include language that invites a broader audience of self-guided learners to undertake a similar activity.

Any given study path might pull out one category of identity for focus, while remaining open to other ways of inflecting the activity (so for instance the Billey article focuses on gender identity, but raises questions that could readily be extended to considerations of race). Our goal is to have 25-40 study paths in place by the end of the D4D initiative.

Each study path should include:

  • ● A brief description of the curricular activity (including an explanation of how the study path could be used in specific pedagogical contexts)
  • ● A list of the resources it draws upon
  • ● A set of metadata:
    • One or more topics
    • One or more keywords
    • Potentially more to be developed
  • ● Supporting and contextualizing materials

study path diagram

In addition to the “resources” and “study paths” the toolkit includes a variety of supporting materials which will be presented as part of the framing site. These materials will potentially include:

  • ● Orientation materials that welcome readers, invite them to explore, and provide an understanding of the scope of the toolkit (i.e. what it does and does not seek to cover). These materials might include pages with guidance on curriculum design, guidance on persuasion (i.e. working with resistant or unfamiliar audiences), discussion of how readers can empower themselves and learn from empowering examples in the case studies, and suggestions on where to start for those new to the domain.
  • ● A glossary of technical concepts with links to external resources for further learning. Authors of case studies will be invited to propose items for the glossary, and readers will be invited to suggest additions using a contribution form on the page.
  • ● User-contributed resources such as curricular examples, audio/video of classroom experiences, samples of student work.



To support exploration and discovery of relevant materials, the resources and study paths will all carry several metadata fields. Briefly, these fields are:
● Topic: a division of the D4D subject domain into topical areas to help us ensure breadth of coverage across the range of “design” spaces in cultural heritage information management systems and processes
● Keyword: a finer-grained identification of issues and subjects covered in the resource
● Creator: the author(s) or entity/ies responsible for the resource
● Creation date



The resources listed above will each have one or more “topic” associated with it, to aid in discovery and organization of the toolkit. These are topical areas that will provide one possible point of access to the toolkit materials, and will also help us ensure that the toolkit covers a range of different areas of “design” and information handling. The “topics” are broad subject areas representing different strategic spaces within which issues of diversity and social justice play out. Terms like race, gender, ethnicity, disability, indigeneity, and socioeconomic status are treated as cross-cutting keywords (described below) rather than as organizing topics, since they will appear so pervasively throughout the toolkit materials.

This is an initial list of topics, revised and expanded in discussion with the Advisory Board and Core Design Group:

  • ● Selection: Selection of material, shaping and building of collections, process of gathering from “outside” the organization, or from members within the organization
  • ● System and tool design: assumptions built into software tools, data management systems, software code; may include algorithms, but also larger systems
  • ● Algorithmic bias: Automated data processing, algorithms and algorithmic bias including information retrieval and processing, text processing algorithms, ethics and social/political factors surrounding this
  • ● Metadata and nomenclatures: Metadata, controlled vocabularies, nomenclatures and naming conventions
  • ● User experience: User interfaces, user interaction design, and the ways interfaces organize and hail knowledge and identity; the role of transparency in making underlying design choices clear
  • ● Intellectual and cultural property: Issues of intellectual and cultural property, the ethics of sharing and open access, control of knowledge and decision-making about access and usage, repatriation and relationships with originating cultures, post-custodial approaches
  • ● Curation and remix: Curatorial behaviors, responsible digitization and transcription, contextualization and exhibition design, practices of remixing, reuse and narrativization, repatriation and relationships with originating cultures
  • ● Ethical partnerships and process: Community partnering, establishing and sustaining relationships with originators and users, processes for making change including participatory design
  • ● Spaces: Environments of technology and technology use that can deeply affect the experience of using cultural heritage information systems



The keywords are a more fine-grained set of descriptors that reflect the many different themes and discovery points for the toolkit resources. The initial set of keywords was developed for use in the Zotero bibliography, and will be expanded and refined as we apply it to the other resources. It is not structured as a hierarchical taxonomy but rather is treated as a flat set of terms. Each resource may have as many keywords as apply to it. We anticipate that keywords will be an important way for readers interested in specific themes and subject areas (such as indigenous languages, LGBTQ issues, zines, RDA, repositories, etc.) to find specific materials of relevance.


Use Cases

These are specific educational contexts or scenarios that will serve, during the toolkit development process, as a way of discovering where/how the specific study paths fit in. Each use case should ideally be based on an actual course, workshop, or other scenario that members of the CDG and grant team have seen or taken part in. The use cases serve as a heuristic for the CDG to envision audience, usage, and also as a heuristic for scoping: i.e. to identify which teaching situations we are and are not supporting.

Types of pedagogical spaces we are targeting in this first phase:

  • ● LIS/GLAM/CS/DH/etc. courses (i.e. formal coursework and professional training for people seeking jobs in GLAM, DH, technical fields)
  • ● Workshop (short formal event, hands-on, focused on a discrete topic)
  • ● On-the-job professional development (training sessions, professional guidance, webinars)
  • ● Self-study (individual or group seeking knowledge and empowerment, guidance on advocacy)

A list of illustrative examples:

  • ● Pre-conference workshops within varied disciplines (ALA, DLF, Museums on the Web, AHA, etc.)
  • ● LIS courses in formal educational settings
  • ● CodeAcademy/Programming Historian/self-study options on the web
  • ● LAM, DH, or CS courses in formal educational settings (distinct from LIS courses in that archives and museum-related courses may occur in non-LIS programs and schools)
  • ● On the job training/orientation materials for developers/programmers, e.g for DH centers and other kinds of professional spaces that hire programmers from industry
    Resources for “the lone arranger”: single librarians/archivists/curators
  • ● ALA, ACRL, DLF, SAA, library consortia (AMIGOS, LYRASIS) other national-level or regional-level association online education (certification/webinar)
    • Including online webinars for a state library association or regional library consortium which are in particular one of the main ways cultural heritage practitioners rural areas access professional development
  • ● Self-study group in a working environment