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Developing A Digital Collection: Skill Five: Project Management

May 10th, 2010 · No Comments


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.

Before scanning that first image or purchasing any software, librarians and archivists should create a plan for the project. The principles behind this first step are similar to developing a business plan. Begin by asking yourself some questions: Why should the collection be digitized? Who will use the collection? How will it be used? After these questions have been answered, it would be useful to develop a mission statement and a vision statement. These will help communicate the importance of the project and the need for support to the parties who control funding and other required resources. They will also serve as a beacon to ensure that the focus is not lost in the work flow.

After establishing why the collection should be created, your plan should formulate how the work can be accomplished. This is like gathering ingredients before beginning to cook. How many people will be needed? Are they readily available? How much space will be needed? Is there equipment to purchase? How much will it cost? How long will it take? How much training is required? What have other institutions done? How did they do it? Are their projects successful? Should their collections be emulated? What should be different? A well-formed plan with a clear vision, realistic goals, and a finite deadline sells the project to the administrators, garners support from your colleagues, and allows marketing the collection to potential users to begin.

The next factor in the project plan is outlining the actual work to be done for creating a digital collection including scanning, editing, and cataloging. At this stage, it is useful to formulate a step-by-step set of instructions for each aspect of the project. For example, there should be instructions for how to create the digital objects and guidelines for adjusting and saving them. Topics such as editing, adjusting color balance, adjusting brightness or contrast, cropping, borders, image resolution, file types, file naming, and more should be clearly outlined in these instructions. Worksheets for recording the data created during this process may be advisable. These worksheets will be helpful when creating the catalog record and metadata for each object. By the way, an instruction manual will be very handy for this step, too. Lastly, tracking the work flow can and should be accomplished via a shared spreadsheet. The spreadsheet allows the project manager and everyone involved to see at a glance what has been done, who did it, and what remains to be done. This saves time, allows for quality control, and minimizes the chances of duplicating efforts.

Accessing the content of a digital collection is deceptively simple – it only takes a few moments, but the time investment and specialized knowledge required for creating that collection is extensive. Developing a useful and usable digital collection depends upon a unique blend of skills possessed by librarians and archivists to accomplish a multi-dimensional task. The skills discussed here and in previous sections include: evaluating the collections needs assessment for the project, knowledge of technologies, metadata standards, and project management. If you are comfortable in some of these areas and are willing to learn along the way, you are ready to begin!

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Category: Archiving Challenges · Developing A Digital Collection