In these challenging times due to COVID-19 digital libraries have experienced a rebirth. Most LIS professionals would agree that there is no one but Professor Anna Maria Tammaro who would know about this development so well. She’s been studying digital libraries over 20 years. She initiated a Master’s program DILL Digital Library Learning.

Anna Marie Tammaro

Anna Maria is one of the speakers in the webinar “Putting Emerging LIS Competencies into Education and Practice: Challenges and Opportunities” organized by the IFLA SET. Together with her colleagues she is going to present a paper titled as “Global internships for Digital Libraries Masters’ students: mentors’ and students’ perspectives on challenges and success factors”.   

In this interview, you’ll learn why the DILL Digital Library Learning program was initiated, how popular this program is among students and what competences students master.

Albina Krymskaya: Thank you for speaking with me. Have you ever counted how many countries are represented by the students you have had in the Master DILL (Digital Library Learning)?     

Anna Maria: First of all, thank you for this invitation to speak about the international Master DILL (Digital library learning). DILL students mostly came from Africa, Asia and Latin America and also from Europe, the United States and Canada, from about 50 countries in total. The International Master obtained funding from Erasmus Mundus for the first five years (2006-2011), then continued with student fees and Erasmus support for European students, but it changed format and went online.

The definition of digital libraries adopted by DILL is: “they are arenas for information seeking behavior and for social processes such as learning and knowledge sharing, they are collections of content that need curation (collection, description, preservation, retrieval, etc.) and they are social institutions with a social mandate that are affected by social, demographic and legal developments”. The profile of the Digital Librarian is an international profile, which knows no geographic boundaries, but which adapts principles and criteria of the social role of digital libraries to the needs of different communities in different contexts.

I would like to add that the teachers of DILL were also international. In addition to the DILL Consortium coordinated by Oslo (Norway) and with Tallinn (Estonia) and Parma (Italy), every year we have invited colleagues from all over the world as visiting teachers, especially from the USA, Europe and Asia. For the Digital Library, internationalization is not limited to research but also important for teaching.

Albina: Have you ever thought that one day this program would be so important? How did this idea to initiate the program occur?

Anna Maria: The idea of the international Master DILL was born from conversations that began in 2003 in Potsdam during an IFLA SET meeting with EUCLID, the Association of LIS teachers in Europe. The aim was to design a core European curriculum, in which to include the digitization of cultural heritage. In Europe the digital library was in its beginnings in those years and the training was led by engineering faculties. There was a first meeting in Parma in 2004 of the Studying Group with ELAG (European Library Automation Group) and with DELOS (European Project on Digital Library) on “IT profiles and curricula” and a second Workshop “Digital Library Education” in Florence (Settignano ) in 2005. The result of these meetings was the design of the profile of the digital librarian and a first draft of the curriculum.

Albina: How popular is the program among students?

Anna Maria: The success of the Master DILL could be measured by students career success: everyone has achieved excellent job positions. The DILL Master has a large family of alumni, who continue to attend as a community. An unexpected aspect is the impact that the Master DILL has had on multiculturalism, bringing a culture of peace and inclusion among students with so many different backgrounds. The DILL Master’s curriculum has also been exported to Palestine, Armenia and Uzbekistan as a result of some European projects. Unfortunately in 2018, I retired and the University of Parma did not reopen the call. International courses demand a lot from teachers, and they require particular motivation to drive the internationalization of university education.

Albina: What competencies is this program aimed at mastering?

Anna Maria: The profile of the digital librarian is interdisciplinary, focuses on the social role of the professional to facilitate learning and inclusion and is at the Master level. The DILL digital librarian is:

  • a bridge between digital resources and users (the traditional role of the literature mediator, but done remotely);
  • an agent of innovation, of citizenship, of information literacy etc. (the concept for the digital librarian as a facilitator of learning, a mentor, as a friend of the user, as a personal trainer who guides the user);
  • communication skills are important for the social role of the librarian which is still prominent, and even more so in a digital environment (the concept of a social role, for active citizenship and social inclusion in the Learning Society, also the collaboration needed with stakeholders);
  • pedagogical skills are enforced in a digital environment (the role of educator, teaching digital librarian) – the concept of the digital library as a virtual classroom.

The DILL curriculum includes modules of IT: Digital document, Access, Semantic Web and LIS modules: Epistemology of Science, Information and Knowledge Management, Human Resources Management, Users and Uses. A compulsory internship period at a digital library serves to put into practice the research skills learned and evaluate digital services. I would like to note that DILL has become more and more interdisciplinary and over time the IT modules have become integrated into the LIS modules and vice versa. For example, Digital document was subsequently integrated with Digital curation and Research Data Management. I believe that the integration of two IT and LIS backgrounds that characterizes DILL is still very important today. Instead, I realize that there is still a tendency to keep skills separate with IT scientists who teach their subjects but not in the context of LIS and LIS teachers who do not know digital systems.

Albina: What requirements do you have for the mentor of this program? Can students that finished studying this program become mentors?

Anna Maria: The International Master DILL has made many alliances with digital librarians engaged in Europe and around the world to build and manage digital libraries. The internship experience was based on specific learning outcomes of the DILL Master and required a considerable commitment of time and organization of mentors. The students, even those who had never used a digital library in their country before, benefited from practical experience. As we will show from the research we did with Graham Walton and Beth Filar Williams, the internship meant a lot to them. The data we have collected shows that the internship has met their expectations. The students gave us great suggestions to improve the internship experience, so I can answer that they could now be excellent mentors themselves.

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Dr Anna Maria Tammaro is currently Editor in Chief of Digital Library Perspectives and Director at Large on the Board of ASIS&T. For more than 20 years she has been teaching at the University of Parma, coordinating the international Master DILL (Digital Library Learning). Her research topics include Digital Library, LIS education, recognition of qualifications.