Announcing The Lighting the Way Handbook

Logo for the Lighting the Way project

The Lighting the Way project team is pleased to announce the publication of The Lighting the Way Handbook: Case Studies, Guidelines, and Emergent Futures for Archival Discovery and Delivery, edited by M.A. Matienzo and Dinah Handel. It represents the synthesis of the work of participants in the Lighting the Way Working Meeting, a practitioner-focused strategic thinking opportunity intended to explore topics related to archival discovery and delivery. The Lighting the Way Handbook includes case studies on work at specific institutions, chapters exploring the impact of standards and best practices on archival discovery and delivery, and descriptions of emergent opportunities that advocate for new programmatic work, as well as an introduction that contextualizes the chapters, draws thematic connections between them, and provides concrete recommendations about how to advance work on archival discovery and delivery.

"Archival discovery and delivery" is the phrase used by Lighting the Way to describe what people, processes, and systems do to support finding, accessing, and using material from archives and special collections. It is intended to underscore the complexity and interdependence of the work, and to take a more expansive view of this work than one focused solely on archival functions as currently understood or as technical development and implementation. The Working Meeting focused on collaborative strategic planning through sessions facilitated using the Liberating Structures framework, and strategy knotworking, a method for participatory strategic planning. The chapters included in The Lighting the Way Handbook represent the application of these methods to understanding new approaches to collaboration and conceptualizing how to support archival discovery and delivery. The Lighting the Way Handbook’s sections and subsequent chapters are as follows: 

Case Studies

  • Renee Pappous, Hannah Sistrunk, and Darren Young, “Connecting on Principles: Building and Uncovering Relationships through a New Archival Discovery System”
  • Stephanie Becker, Anne Kumer, and Naomi Langer, “Access is People: How Investing in Digital Collections Labor Improves Archival Discovery & Delivery”
  • Martha Anderson, Max Eckard, Melanie Griffin, Emiko Hastings, Deb Kulczak, Chris Powell, Olga Virakhovskaya, Caitlin Wells, and Katrina Windon, “Facilitating Seamless Access Through Collaborative Workflows, Advocacy, and Communication”

Assessing and Applying Standards and Best Practices

  • Jodi Allison-Bunnell, Maureen Cresci Callahan, Gretchen Gueguen, John Kunze, Krystyna K. Matusiak, and Gregory Wiedeman, “Lost Without Context: Representing Relationships between Archival Materials in the Digital Environment”
  • Sarah Dorpinghaus, Cory Lampert, Rebecca Pattillo, and Kyna Herzinger, “Maximizing Good: An Inquiry-Based Approach to Minimal Description for Online Archives”
  • Stefana Breitwieser, Amanda Demeter, Sophie Glidden-Lyon, Amanda Murray, Lori Myers-Steele, and Kate Philipson, “Playing to our Strengths: Self-Assessment Criteria for Access and Discovery in Small Archives”

Emergent Opportunities

  • Kelli Babcock, Regine Heberlein, Anna Björnsson McCormick, Elizabeth Russey Roke, Greta Kuriger Suiter, and Ruth Kitchin Tillman, “The Power of Parallel Description: Wikidata and Archival Discovery”
  • Katherine Crowe, Katrina Fenlon, Hannah Frisch, Diana Marsh, and Victoria Van Hyning, “Inviting and Honoring User-contributed Content”
  • Faith Charlton, Christa Cleeton, Alison Clemens, Betts Coup, Zoë Hill, and Jessica Tai, “A Call to Action: User Experience & Inclusive Description”
  • Elvia Arroyo-Ramírez, Annalise Berdini, Shelly Black, Greg Cram, Kathryn Gronsbell, Nick Krabbenhoeft, Kate Lynch, Genevieve Preston, and Heather Smedberg, “Speeding Towards Remote Access: Developing Shared Recommendations for Virtual Reading Rooms”

Through this process and the work of the project more broadly, the project team and Working Meeting participants recognized emerging themes related to the ecosystem of systems supporting archival discovery and delivery; the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on both operations and planning; the connections to emerging models of resource-sensitive operations; and the connections and tensions between this work and professional standards and best practices. The project team’s recommendations to sustain this work include establishing an investment in understanding collaborative models, power relations, and organizational positioning of this work; ensuring time and space for strategic planning and advocating for care-focused methods; and identifying ways in which to create and sustain communities of practice. While this requires a considerable investment from practitioners, the collective experience of participants and facilitators in the project demonstrate that this is essential to ensure the continued success of this work. 

The Lighting the Way Handbook is available through the Stanford Digital Repository at its DOI (doi:10.25740/gg453cv6438), and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The volume will be supplemented by the final report of the project, to be published in November 2021.

More information on Lighting the Way can be found on the project website. If you have any questions or feedback about The Lighting the Way Handbook, please contact the project team at, or M.A. Matienzo, Project Director, at

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, through grant LG-35-19-0012-19. The IMLS is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums. To learn more, visit