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Developing A Digital Collection

Digital Archiving: Fun for everyone?

September 23rd, 2011 · No Comments

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How did one institution attract 50,000-plus volunteers to help with an archiving project?

The National Library of Finland is in the process of digitizing its archives so that they are fully searchable on the Internet. Scanning the centuries-old newspapers, journals, and documents isn’t so much the problem as is accurately transcribing the text. OCR (Optical Character Reading) software can only do so much. Standard fonts are easy enough for a computer to identify, but aging print in fancy scripts are more difficult. Obscure language, proper names, and decaying paper also interfere with OCR’s text recognition. In order for the materials to be accurately digitized, every document must then be double-checked by human eyes.

To help with the process, The National Library of Finland teamed up with Finnish technology company Microtask to come up with an innovative solution: make a game of it. Granted, it’s hard to imagine how anything like checking manuscript text against a computer’s digital interpretation could really be fun. But Microtask saw things differently—instead of pages of repetitive work, they broke down each individual word-check into what they (appropriately) call microtasks.
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Category: Developing A Digital Collection · New Tools

Fixing Metadata (or Let’s Do it Right the First Time)

March 10th, 2011 · No Comments

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In years of teaching visual indexing and being called in to create metadata schemas, I have seen some crazy attempts at description.

Sometimes we have been involved from the beginning developing thesauri of specialized terms for a collection, more often we are called in to fix existing records.

As I roll up my sleeves to tackle either project, I often wonder why organizations do not know more about what they want.

I come down to the same answer that permeates our profession as a whole. The majority of people do not understand the work that goes into providing quality. In our current era of fast and cheap; people have lost the quality aspect almost completely. When they can not successfully execute an accurate search in their database, then they call us to fix it. I am absolutely happy to do so, but make no mistake, I wish for that collection to have done it right the first time; rather than to have called us after hundreds of hours of wasted work. Quality becomes a feature of importance often only after a failure rather than as a preventative measure.
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Category: Archiving Challenges · Developing A Digital Collection

The DAM Metadata Disconnect

February 7th, 2011 · No Comments

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After reading some marketing information from a DAM vendor, and working in the field for nearly 20 years, I just needed to vent about how some present their product.

Some DAM system vendors often tout their automated systems as replacements for what they claim is “costly manual tagging”. Yet, after implementing one of these expensive systems, their customers often turn to information professionals for metadata development help, because their end users are unable to find the assets they need in a timely manner. There is an obvious disconnect between full automation versus high-end manual service.
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Category: Developing A Digital Collection · New Tools

History is Big Business

May 19th, 2010 · 1 Comment

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I have been using for the above phrase for many years. I say it with conviction in my voice while making sure to maintain eye contact. I believe it deep in my bones.

Why is the history business such an important issue for me and thousands of archivists across the country? Part of it is the growth in demand over the last 15 years by cable networks to fill their channel with documentary programming. Some of it is the keen interest I personally have in learning about the human condition and learning from those events. Mix that in with years of licensing negotiation and seeing how amazed producers are with what archivists can provide and I know that this is big business.
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Category: Archiving Challenges · Developing A Digital Collection · Licensing and Access · New Tools

An Archivist’s Brand New Hat – New Beginnings for My Family History

May 10th, 2010 · 5 Comments

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Dr. Thomas Merriweather In a national economy in which double-digit unemployment figures travel in the opposite direction from the signs that things are said to be improving and a local economy that would jangle the nerves of the most fiercely optimistic, I am frequently riddled with doubt as to my decision to return to school for the academic qualifications to do something I truly enjoy. It was easy to buy into the notion of getting paid for doing a job for the sheer happiness it brings. I didn’t anticipate that timing is everything and having the know-how, energy and desire to take on an all new career was only half the battle.
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Category: Archiving Challenges · Developing A Digital Collection · Preservation

Developing A Digital Collection: Skill Five: Project Management

May 10th, 2010 · No Comments

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Skill Five: Project Management

Perhaps the most important skill a librarian or archivist must possess for a successful digitization initiative is that of project management. Project management is a complicated endeavor comprised of: planning, budgeting, prioritizing, scheduling, coordinating, communicating, collating, visualizing, selecting, delegating, programming, designing, organizing, overseeing, overhearing, marketing, and sometimes even cheerleading. This list is reminiscent of a song by Bob Dylan or R.E.M., and is very likely incomplete, but each aspect of project management listed above is significant. A good project manager has the ability to see the big picture as clearly as the smallest details of the collection. If this sounds harder than comprehending metadata, rest assured, the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) comes through again with excellent advice in A Framework of Guidance for Building Good Digital Collections, the guide mentioned in our first installment, Evaluating the Collection. The success or failure of a digital collection is decided by the quality and effectiveness of its project management.
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Category: Archiving Challenges · Developing A Digital Collection

Developing A Digital Collection: Skill Four: Metadata Standards

April 26th, 2010 · No Comments

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Skill Four: Metadata Standards

Metadata is defined as data about data, information about information. If this sounds confusing, TechTerms.com provides a simple definition of how metadata “describes other data” citing examples such as: image size, document length, and creation date. A much more comprehensive guide called Understanding Metadata was published in 2004 by The National Information Standards Organization (NISO).

The NISO publication is meaty, but concise at just 15 pages and that includes a resource list and a glossary! Though the word “metadata” sounds enigmatic to librarians and laypersons alike, compiling metadata is really similar to standard cataloging using MARC 21 – which is itself a metadata standard. There are three types of metadata as defined by NISO: descriptive metadata, structural metadata, and administrative metadata. Anyone working with digital collections should become intimately familiar with all three.
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Category: Archiving Challenges · Developing A Digital Collection

Management and Digitization

April 15th, 2010 · No Comments

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As I was working on a workshop about process planning for digitization, I came across this quote by Peter Drucker, ”Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes.”

No matter how pleasant you are (or you think that you are) the bottom line is that the funding and reputation of your institution rests on success.

There is a reason that business principles exist. There is a reason that companies that fail to follow these principles also fail. Few managers of digitization projects have business backgrounds. The number one failure seems to be a lack of project management skills.
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Category: Archiving Challenges · Developing A Digital Collection

Developing A Digital Collection: Skill Three: Knowledge of Technologies

April 12th, 2010 · No Comments

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Skill Three: Knowledge of Technologies

Librarians and archivists who develop digital collections must be technology savvy. This sounds much more intimidating than it really is. To be skilled in technology does not mean one has to have mastered every program and piece of equipment ever created. This would be nearly impossible because technology is constantly changing and evolving. Rather, being skilled in technology means one has mastered some programs and equipment, has an overall understanding of how things work, and is capable of learning new skills. Fortunately that describes most of today’s librarians and archivists. Staying informed about the latest developments in hardware and software is equally as important as nurturing an enthusiasm for learning new tools and the possibilities they bring.
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Category: Archiving Challenges · Developing A Digital Collection

Developing A Digital Collection: Skill Two: Needs Assessment

March 29th, 2010 · No Comments

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Skill Two: Needs Assessment
After deciding to create a digital exhibition, the librarian/archivist should perform a needs assessment to list anything required for the project. The list will include everything from staff and supplies to time and workspace. After compiling a list, the librarian/archivist will determine which resources are readily available and which needs will need to be acquired. The library/archives may already have sufficient supplies, a large workroom and staff members who are knowledgeable in technology, but it may need to acquire a scanner, a digital camera, digital storage devices and software. Each new purchase should be researched for quality, specifications and suitability. The librarian/archivist will likely be the one to select and recommend the new purchases. It may help to look at other collections during your own needs assessment.
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Category: Archiving Challenges · Developing A Digital Collection