Coral Salomón is truly a librarian of the global 21st Century. She’s a specialist in archiving born-digital art (mediums such as apps, websites, youtube videos, myspace profiles) to ensure that the digital native researchers of the future will have a meticulously clean window to gaze into cultural expression of the late 20th & early 21st Centuries. She relishes the opportunity to immerse herself in the world of artistic creation. She has honored her origins throughout her career and reflects a lot on how she can professionally collaborate with individuals working at knowledge institutions back home in Puerto Rico. And, since beginning her National Digital Stewardship Resident Fellowship in June 2017, she has used her skills not only to preserve aesthetically rich and complex digital and non-profit content, but also to help preserve lives in her homeland of Puerto Rico.
“Puerto Rico’s archives, universities, and libraries face a lot of obstacles, ranging from budget cuts due to the austerity crisis to a political culture that perceives our cultural heritage as trivial at best and radical at worst,” said Salomón.
Before coming to the Penn Libraries, she spent time at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College. While there, she worked with digitized and born-digital content to create the first digital archive dedicated to showcasing the history and culture of Puerto Ricans in the diaspora. Last fall, when Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria, Salomón used her unique skills in digital librarianship to co-organize a 5-hour “mapathon” event that benefited disaster relief workers. Using satellite images from the open-source mapping tool OpenStreetMap, volunteers were able to work on a map that provided data for Red Cross volunteers who were planning and conducting relief operations on the island.
In her new position as Digital Strategies Librarian at the Fisher Fine Arts Library, Salomón will continue to take on projects that explore the intersection of people and place, as well as the ethics of web archiving. Through this work, she will continue the Penn Libraries’ commitment to opening resources to the Penn community and beyond like the Fisher Fine Arts Library Web Archive. This archive, which has recently received accolades for digitizing the archives of the popular Philadelphia online publication Hidden City Daily, collects, facilitates access, and preserves web content that documents and provides value to the arts and historic preservation disciplines in Philadelphia. Artists and art publications are on the front line when it comes to experimenting with technology. That makes it challenging to acquire and preserve all the output they're producing, especially went it comes to digital content. For Salomón, knowledge-sharing is crucial. “Being an archivist isn’t only about preserving the past, it is also about safeguarding present-day stories for future access and use. One strategy against digital obsolescence is to teach others how to archive their own work,” she said.
As the field of librarianship continuously evolves, the Penn Libraries strives to lead new waves of exploration and experimentation to redefine the boundaries of librarians' roles in the creation of new knowledge. Librarians like Salomón, whose work is an expression of this evolution, cultivate the application of knowledge beyond traditional boundaries, impacting life in our world, today and tomorrow, in ways small and big.