Adrian Clark

Adrian Clark

Last updated on 13 October 2022

Adrian Clark is Academic Librarian for the Wolfson School of Engineering at Loughborough University. He attended DCDC 2022 with the support of the DPC Career Development Fund, which is funded by DPC Supporters.

I am the Academic Librarian for the Wolfson School of Engineering at Loughborough University. My interests are in research support and how data archiving and preservation underpins the scholarly record and can create new research opportunities. Having worked in the cultural and heritage sector previously as well as my current role I was excited to listen to so many different perspectives at the 2022 Discovering Collections, Discovering Communities (DCDC 2022) conference this past July.

One of my first thoughts on looking at the conference programme was that: “I wish our archivist was here with me!” Loughborough is currently recruiting to replace our Archivist; the university archive records the organization's inception as The Loughborough Technical Institute in 1909 to its present structure as a world class university. Additionally, the library is currently revisioning its strategy. Two strands of that process Opening Up Research and Contributing Towards Knowledge Exchange, supplied a key reason for attending DCDC 2022. I was hoping to identify potential partners to help us tell the story of our institution better and to figure out if we could do things differently when it comes to collection curation. I wasn’t disappointed! Below I have brought together the themes of several of the talks that I attended and the learning they prompted.


Inclusive Design

Two speakers that really resonated with me, Leoni Watson and Karen Boardman, both spoke about inclusivity and inclusive design. This was the first time I’d attended a conference where the speakers gave a brief description of themselves, so that delegates with a visual impairment could picture who is speaking. This is such a simple act that I couldn’t believe I hadn’t come across it before, and that set the tone for me, you don’t need to be radical in your service design to incorporate inclusion, but it does take some simple actions to make sure that you are not excluding members of your audience. Leoni shared a personal story about enjoying watching ballet as a child and she enjoys ballet since losing her sight, she can still enjoy the music, the story and have described to her the costumes; the experience is comparable not equivalent and that is more realistic. This made me think, firstly, how our service is perceived and what we would need to do to supply comparable experiences to our user communities. While Leoni gave an excellent presentation on the principles of inclusive design, Karen presented another perspective, that of a local authority digital strategy. It was good to hear Karen bust some digital myths, especially that young people are digitally literate by virtue of being young people. This is a viewpoint I share, having worked with students who are comfortable using various applications, but become extremely uncomfortable outside their realm of current experience. While Karen was talking from a civic perspective, it made me wonder the degree to which digital exclusion affects the academic success of our students and how the attainment gap and the university’s widening participation goals are affected by these issues digitally excluded students. Karen made an excellent point that digital exclusion is a social problem and not a technical one; thinking this through the university’s mission to produce digitally literate graduates should seek to include those students that are digitally excluded and has a greater potential for the outreach work the institution does with the wider community within the region. 



Recently the Library at Loughborough set up a working group looking at equity, diversity and inclusion across our services and resources. We’re just getting started on this journey as a library, although the institution has recently appointed senior positions to promote EDI across the organization, so for me a lot of the speakers at DCDC22 this year, both inspired in terms of what we can carry out, but also presented the stark challenges facing the sector when it comes to embracing EDI. To take the latter point first it was crucial to hear the experiences of colleagues who were working within the sector, had been appointed to look specifically at collections relating to historic slavery and colonialism, and yet were met with resistance within the teams they were working and, in some cases, outright racism; this experience was shared by several speakers. This raised issues of accountability within organizations carrying out these projects as well as the safeguarding of colleagues working in an environment where exposure to toxic attitudes is a risk. I’ve never experienced or seen anything like this at Loughborough, but one of the first conversations I had with my manager after the conference was to surface this within the EDI group as a point of learning to take forward.

It's important not to diminish the excellent work happening in this space, but it would be myopic not to mention the above. Examples that really stood out for me from the conference were The National Library of Ireland’s gear change towards its collection as Della Keating mentioned, “Irish society has changed” and by implication the collection strategy needs to [has done]. Della also spoke of the Library’s active standpoint as opposed to a passive record. Currently Loughborough offers advice on best practice for reading list creation including sections on accessibility and diversity and is considering how to best support better representation when it comes to adding to the university’s collections. The only real way to do this properly is by getting out there and connecting the academic community with the tools and resources to achieve this goal. Chao Tayiana Maina gave a thoughtful presentation about African digital heritage, I come from a perspective that everything that can be digital and open should be, so unless there are commercial losses or sensitive data why not have a digital and open version? However, Chao Tayiana asked some pertinent questions: Why do we digitize? Who are we digitizing for? How can digitization allow us to interrogate the past? In response to some of these questions it was not appropriate to digitize some collections before the communities whose heritage it is, have had the opportunity to connect with them. This opened my perspective about digital curation and has allowed me to interrogate my own Eurocentric viewpoint on what digital collections are and who they are for.


Digital Collections: Human People

It is undoubtable that AI and the industrial revolution 4.0 will permeate all our lives and change the way that we live and work. Galleries, museums, archives and libraries are no exception. There was some extremely exciting stuff highlighted at DCDC22, using AI to digitize handwritten text sounded incredible! Using EPADD to archive emails offers an enormous potential to radicalize institutional archives, Loughborough’s is no exception! The potential to bring to life untold collections is phenomenal. However, a theme that ran throughout many of the talks, which I think the sector will need a better grasp on, is how to make sure that the people within our institutions have the skills, knowledge and capabilities to harness these new opportunities. I for one am excited to see how this develops as we all step forward into a brave new world!



Reference List

Boardman, C. and University of York (2022) “Digital Exclusion: Lived Experience of Minority and Marginalised People in York, UK,” in DCDC22: Discovering Collections, Discovering Communities, 11 July - 15 July 2022. Available at:

Keating, D. and National Library of Ireland. (2022) “By accident or design : Diversity, Inclusion and Innovation in born digital collecting at the National Library of Ireland,” in DCDC22: Discovering Collections, Discovering Communities, 11 July - 15 July 2022. Available at:

Maina, C.T. (2022) “Beyond digital infrastructure, a community centred model for digital innovation within cultural heritage,” in DCDC22: Discovering Collections, Discovering Communities, 11 July - 15 July 2022. Available at:

Watson, L. (2022) “Using the Inclusive Design Principles,” in DCDC22: Discovering Collections, Discovering Communities, 11 July - 15 July 2022. Available at:


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