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A photo of Isabel Brador, who is a Program Specialist on the CCDI team.
Isabel Brador is a Program Specialist with the Connecting Communities Digital Initiative. Image courtesy of Isabel Brador.

Connecting Communities Digital Initiative – Introducing Isabel Brador

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We are excited to introduce Isabel Brador, who recently joined the Connecting Communities Digital Initiative (CCDI) as a Program Specialist. In her role on the CCDI team, Isabel will work closely with CCDI awardees to support them as they plan and implement their projects and contribute to initiative design, strategy, and communications.

We interviewed Isabel to talk about her new role; the importance of learning from how artists, scholars, and communities use cultural heritage materials; and bolstering online access to digital collections.

Welcome, Isabel! We’re delighted you’ve joined the Digital Strategy Directorate as a Program Specialist with the Connecting Communities Digital Initiative. Could you tell us a bit about your professional background? What experiences or education made you want to work at the Library?

Excited to be here! Prior to coming to the Library, I served as the Assistant Director for Digital Experiences at The Wolfsonian–Florida International University, a design and arts museum in Miami Beach. During my time there, I led the implementation of the museum’s digital strategy with the goal of making the museum’s digital collections more accessible. A large portion of my work was focused on refining the search functionality of our online portal, and learning about how users searched and accessed our collections. I also focused on collection metadata, and understanding how the cataloging of collections can directly impact their discoverability. I got to lead the development of the museum’s online exhibition program and their in-gallery and web interactives.

In addition to my work in digital experiences, I managed the museum’s graduate assistant research program, The Metadata Squad. This part of my work was especially rewarding as Florida International University (FIU) is an HSI (Hispanic Serving Institution) and many of the students I worked with identified as Latino. As a first-generation immigrant myself, it was especially fulfilling to connect with students on this level and help them take their first steps into careers in the Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums (GLAM) field.

Outside of my role as Assistant Director, I served as the digital lead for the Wolfsonian Public Humanities Lab (WPHL) on their Community Data Curation grant, which focused on preserving the histories and experiences of historically underrepresented people through sustainable preservation and digitization practices. I have a graduate degree in public history with a focus in museum studies, so this work felt like a perfect fit.  In this role, I worked with eight cultural heritage and community organizations in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, and it’s ultimately what sparked a passion for community work and pushed me to seek out similar opportunities. When I saw the opening for the position of Program Specialist with CCDI and saw the previous cohort’s projects, I just knew I had to apply. It was sort of a lightbulb moment for me.


What will your role be with the Connecting Communities Digital Initiative?

One of my main responsibilities as a Program Specialist is to help support our grant awardees as they plan and implement their projects. We currently have 14 awardees at various stages in their projects! Alongside the CCDI team, I provide support to our Higher Education (HE) and Libraries, Archives and Museums (LAMs) awardees. This means anything from awardee onboarding and orientation to helping awardees think through project implementation. It’s a role where there’s lots to learn while also working alongside very dedicated and wonderful colleagues, so to say I’m excited is an understatement.


What did you find interesting about this initiative? Are there technical or social elements that are particularly intriguing to you?

What drew me to CCDI was the initiative’s focus on supporting communities of color as they engage with Library collections. Often, community organizations, scholars, and artists of color experience additional challenges (cultural, linguistic, and logistical) when accessing cultural heritage collections, even if those collections speak to their own histories. To have an initiative that begins to address that challenge and bolsters access is incredibly special.


What sorts of opportunities do you think this work offers for the Library of Congress and users?

I think this work gives the Library a front-row seat to see how communities, artists and scholars use and access Library collections, and also gain insight into the kinds of projects users are looking to embark on. Project outcomes and lessons learned while using Library collections can spark ideas about how we catalogue, showcase, and share collections online, particularly collections that are created by or are about communities of color. By learning from folks themselves how they would like to use collections, we can better learn how to partner and reach users in the future.


You’ve worked previously in museum digital experience and strategy. How will those experiences inform the work you do with CCDI?

My previous work was guided by human centered design, and a passion for co-creating with audiences. I most enjoyed projects where I was able to incorporate user feedback, and work across departments to create a digital experience. This is when I really learned how to listen to folks from various industries and fields and consider the unique needs of the communities and institutions I partnered with. I think this will be helpful in developing relationships that are mutually beneficial for awardees and offering support that best fits their needs.


What are you hoping to learn, or what skills are you hoping to develop, in your work here?

I’m excited to learn about the needs of communities, artists, and scholars when it comes to accessing and using cultural heritage organizations’ collections. It’s interesting having a foot in both worlds. Currently working with awardees as they use the library collections, but also having been behind the scenes in my previous role creating digital content, and collections for users to access. I’m curious to learn what cultural heritage organizations like museums and libraries are getting right when it comes to digitizing and providing online access to their collections, and what we might be missing as a field.

I’m also beginning a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science this coming fall and I’m hoping to use my time with CCDI to contextualize my academic coursework.


What sorts of things are you passionate about? Do you have any hobbies or interests you would like to share?

Outside of work, I love baking, making pottery and spending time outdoors, whether it be hiking or biking. I’m based out of Miami, Florida and have easy access to Everglades National Park, which is an amazing ecosystem. My extracurriculars also bleed into my academic research interests, such as the industrialization of foodstuffs and foodways and the history of leisure and outdoor recreational activities.  I’m not sure which came first, my academic interests or my hobbies, but feel fortunate that they feed into each other.


CCDI is part of the Library’s Of the People: Widening the Path program with support from the Mellon Foundation. This program provides fellowships and grants to individuals and institutions for projects that innovate, imagine, and remix Library materials to highlight the stories and perspectives of Black, Indigenous, Hispanic/Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islander, and other communities of color from any of the 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and its territories and commonwealths (Puerto Rico, Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, American Samoa, U.S. Virgin Islands). Learn more about CCDI here.

For more about the Library’s historic Of the People initiative, click here.

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