September 9, 2021 Nine Culture and Technology Experts Join Library of Congress Connecting Communities Digital Initiative Advisory Board

Press Contact: María Peña,
Public Contact: Laurie Allen

Nine experts in technology, cultural memory, libraries and archives have signed on to serve as the advisory board for the Connecting Communities Digital Initiative, a key component of the new initiative Of the People: Widening the Path at the Library of Congress. Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, this initiative aims to connect the Library more deeply with Black, Indigenous and other communities of color traditionally underrepresented in the United States.

The Connecting Communities Digital Initiative will ultimately sponsor digital projects and partnerships aimed at amplifying the stories of Black, Indigenous, Hispanic, Asian American/Pacific Islander and other communities of color whose stories have too often been undertold in our nation’s history and in the Library’s collections. Board members, who will serve a one-year term, will contribute their expertise, advice and lessons learned from similar public and private efforts to deepen relationships with diverse communities.

“The Library of Congress has collected millions of items documenting American history and creativity that contain countless stories for users to discover and share,” said Kate Zwaard, director of digital strategy at the Library of Congress. “We are so grateful to have the advice of this amazing group of experts to help us explore ways of using technology to engage new users and tell stories that feature the creativity and experiences of people from communities who have often been underrepresented.”

The Connecting Communities Digital Initiative will offer grants to libraries, museums, educators, scholars and artists working on projects that spotlight the perspectives of communities of color using Library of Congress digitized collection materials and will rely on the advisory board to expand on collaborative additions to the cultural record.

The first round of annual grants in this four-year program will be announced by the Library and open for applications later this month. Subscribe to the Of the People blog to receive timely notifications of funding opportunities and updates about the Connecting Communities Digital Initiative. The Connecting Communities Digital Initiative advisory board includes:

  • André Brock, associate professor of media studies at Georgia Tech. He writes on Western technoculture, Black technoculture and digital media. His scholarship examines Black and white representations in social media, videogames, blogs and other digital media. His award-winning book, titled “Distributed Blackness: African American Cybercultures,” theorizes Black everyday lives mediated by networked technologies. 
  • Brian Carpenter, curator of Indigenous Materials at the American Philosophical Society Library & Museum. An archivist by training, he began working at the APS in 2008 on a six-year project to digitize and catalog all of the library's 3000+ hours of audio recordings of Indigenous languages of the Americas. He has worked with over 80 Native communities throughout North America to enhance their access to archival materials at the APS and to help improve the representation and uses of the collections.  
  • Jennifer A. Ferretti, artist, information professional and Digital Library Federation Senior Program Officer at the Council on Library and Information Resources. A first-generation U.S.-born Latina, Ferretti is interested in non-Western forms of knowledge making and sharing and how this can be used within digital library technology to better serve historically excluded communities. She is also the founder and principal ofWe Here™️ LLC and creative director of up//root: a we here publication.
  • Gabrielle Foreman, the founding faculty director of the Colored Conventions Project (org) and professor of English, African American Studies and History at Penn State where she holds the Paterno Family Chair of Liberal Arts. She is also founding co-director of the Center for Digital Black Research/#DigBlk, which works to bring to digital life the buried histories of 19th-century Black organizing. Foreman is author of five books and editions, including “The Colored Conventions Movement: Black Organizing in the Nineteenth Century,” and “Praise Songs for Dave the Potter: Art and Poetry for David Drake” (forthcoming, 2022). 
  • Samip Mallick, cofounder and executive director of the South Asian American Digital Archive since 2008. Working at the intersection of technology and storytelling, Mallick has degrees in library and information sciences and computer science and has done graduate training in history. He has worked in South Asia-related projects at the University of Chicago Library and the Social Science Research Council. Mallick also served as an archival consultant for the Ford Foundation's "Reclaiming the Border Narrative" initiative.
  • Elizabeth Méndez Berry, vice president and executive editor of One World, an imprint of Penguin Random House in New York. Before joining One World, she worked in social justice philanthropy in roles at the Ford Foundation, the Surdna Foundation and the Nathan Cummings Foundation. In addition to cofounding several philanthropic initiatives, she is an award-winning writer and editor who focuses on culture, gender, criminal justice and politics.
  • Bari Talley, tribal library coordinator for the Karuk Tribe, where she has worked collaboratively with tribal and non-tribal individuals, NGOs, governmental departments and agencies to build the library resources, including broadband, for her remote community on the Klamath River in the mountains of northern California. Talley served on local, regional and national committees dedicated to preserving and improving access to indigenous culture, language and educational opportunities.
  • Janet Tom, recipient of the I Love My Librarian Award in 2020, a national award that honors 10 librarians across the country who have helped transform lives and communities through their programs and outreach activities. She created the innovative “Death and Dying Series” at the San Francisco Public Library, an eight-part series focused on faith traditions, rituals and resources, alternative burial rites and more. Tom's work has centered on promoting wellness and healthy living programs in minority communities, which included partnering with the Alzheimer’s Association to bring their annual Chinese Alzheimer’s Forum to Chinese-language speakers in San Francisco. 
  • Jewon Woo, professor of African American, American, and Women’s Literatures and Humanities at Lorain County Community College in Ohio. She has been involved in the Cleveland Humanities Collaborative. Her essays appeared in “American Periodicals,” “American Studies,” “Research on Diversity in Youth Literature,” and“The Colored Conventions Movement.” She currently works on a digital project about the Black press in 19th-century Ohio.

About Of the People: Widening the Path

Launched in January 2021, Of the People: Widening the Path is a multiyear initiative to connect the Library more deeply with Black, Indigenous, and communities of color traditionally historically underrepresented in the United States and in the Library’s collections. Funded through a gift from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, it provides new opportunities for more Americans to engage with the Library and add their perspectives to the Library’s collections. This work will expand the Library’s efforts to ensure that a diversity of experiences is reflected in our historical record and inform how we use those materials to understand our past.

About the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States — and extensive materials from around the world — both on-site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office.  Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at, access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at and register creative works of authorship at


PR 21-050
ISSN 0731-3527