Keynote presentation: Dr Philippa Sheail 'Data bodies in the library: from crustaceans to code'

17 Mar 2020

Last month, Dr Philippa Sheail presented a keynote plenary session at VALA2020 : 'Data bodies in the library: from crustaceans to code' in Melbourne, Australia.

Phil's presentation was recorded and can be accessed here.


This presentation builds on my ethnographic explorations of the contemporary research library, considering its historic and material foundations through to its digital architecture and data formations.

Through a rich description of a university library in 2020, I explore the library as both a built structure of historical and social significance, and as a digital infrastructure extending to a vast network of digital objects, environments, and publishing practices.

I foreground the ethical tensions around the use of library data – including its relationship to the ‘smart’ campus and the ‘shadow’ library – while also exploring the library’s role as a historically dense setting for academic practice. I conclude with a challenge to library futures, calling for a re-evaluation and reimagination of what – and who – makes a library.


VALA – Libraries, Technology and the Future Inc. is an independent Australian based not-for-profit organisation that actively supports the use and understanding of information technology in libraries and the GLAM sector.  In 2018, VALA celebrated its 40th anniversary.