This document describes the scope and key design features of the Design for Diversity teaching and learning toolkit. It provided 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 also provides design guidance for partners working to implement the toolkit in other environments.

Goals and Scope

The toolkit is 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 locally-oriented, contextualized, and situated practices
  • Support active learning through a format that encourages interaction, problem-based learning, and critical thinking
  • Support exploration of the relation between theory and practice, and also the revision of theoretical frameworks through evidence from specific cases
  • Support both direct use by learners and use by instructors who guide others in its use
  • Encourage cross-disciplinary approaches 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 perspective on the problem: large research libraries which are taking on (and being asked to take on) responsibility for developing and 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 (2017-19) 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 oppression 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.




Because of its funding source and the kinds of expertise it draws on, the toolkit will be aimed primarily at an audience of practitioners in the broad domains of libraries, museums, archives, and cultural heritage, with an initial group based in academic libraries. However, it will draw on relevant work from other specialities like public humanities or digital history, and will likewise be applicable to those domains. Key design principles and scenarios are:


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). We also want to address an audience with a wide range of expertise and 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.


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, historians, activists. 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

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. 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 interested in history and cultural heritage

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 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


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, and toolkit resources are being reviewed at several stages through open calls for comment. At the end of the grant-funded kickoff, the toolkit will be published and eventually 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 to reach as wide an audience as possible.