Posts Tagged ‘collection development


Digitization policies: drafts

In a few weeks, I will have been in my position here for four months. If there is one project that I hope to complete before my first year, it is to successfully create a sustainable digitization process for our library!

With feedback from the digital/web librarian who attempted to create a digitization policy about two years ago and a lot of reading, I created four documents to get our digitization “task force” talking about our project process. These documents, in draft form, are as follows:

  • Digital Collection Development Policy: This document is modeled after the original policy document. It describes types of digitization projects, defines a “digitization advisory group” that decides what projects to do and who will be part of the projects, as well as project selection criteria.
  • Digital Project Life Cycle: This document describes the process of identifying and implementing a digital project. Team roles are described, as well as technical and metadata specs (still in development).
  • Digitization Project Proposal: This is a very short form that groups can fill out to propose a digital project to the “digitization advisory group.”
  • Project Proposal Checklist: This is the checklist that the “digitization advisory group” would use to help the group decide on and prioritize digitization projects. Adapted from Syracuse University Library’s “Digital Library Project Proposal Checklist.”

There are other forms and policies, such as a work order submission form and copyright research policy — I have some great guidance from the Society of Georgia Archivists’ Forms Forum, which has a lot of excellent examples. Some of the other resources I consulted and adapted include:

For me, the development policy and life cycle documents are the most important. Once our “task force” comes to agreement on these documents, they can serve as the backbone for our projects, as well as evidence that we all support a long-term, collaborative digitization effort. Feedback and suggestions are welcome. Thank you for reading!

As an unrelated note, Touchable Archives is the blog of the month for May 2010 at Simmons’ GSLIS!


Creating a digitization task force

Just over a month ago, I asked my colleagues at the NC Digital Collections Collaboratory about ways to formulate a digital collections program at my institution. I got some great feedback and this morning, I was able to wrangle in the eight very important technology, metadata, and special collections staff that could create a sustainable digitization “task force.”

I was fairly nervous about my attempt to gain consensus among this mixed, highly trained, busy group. Without a director of special collections, our ragtag task force became more of a brainstorming session. I brought everyone a copy of Suzanne Preate’s “Digital Project Life Cycle” slide from the 2009 NNYLN conference and allowed for a little storytelling about the history of efforts to create a digital collections program. Once everyone had a chance to express their past frustrations and concerns, we began to ponder the idea of a digital collections process that would work for our institution.

Everyone immediately agreed that special collections alone should have final say about what is selected for digitization, since our staff should have the best idea of what is in our collections. I mentioned that our manuscript collections are not processed to the point where potential digital projects could be created, but our rare books librarian could likely make decisions about rare books that could be digitized. At the same time, everyone wanted to be a part of the creation of a digital collection development policy (also known as selection criteria), which was a relief. I was asked to draft the policy and email the group for feedback and suggestions.

The remainder of the meeting was spent discussing issues with post-production, such as user interface and what the tech team called the “discovery layer” for DSpace. It turns out there is a possibility of creating a new portal for digital collections that pulls from DSpace, without having to use the standard DSpace interface templates. Basically, DSpace and Encompass are the databases, and our new digital portal and VuFind (our catalog) will be the discovery layers. I am still learning about this. Our head tech programmer mentioned that we could use VuFind or a blog (catablog?) as our special collections interface, with MARC records mapped from Dublin Core records that are in DSpace. Of course, this would not work with our finding aids, since the majority of the information therein would not be fully searchable as a MARC record. Our tech team asked special collections to send examples of best practices of how a DSpace portal could look (I did not find many good examples online) as well as any examples we could find of interfaces that may have DSpace as a backend (this is in the works).

We then turned back to the need for a project process. Our copyright expert librarian chimed in to mention a need to document efforts to determine copyright status for orphaned and unpublished works. She urged us to consider creating a standard rights statement for our digital objects. I gave her a copy of the “Well-intentioned practice for putting digitized collections of unpublished materials online” document shared in the recent post from entitled “Archivists: be bold and do your job.”

We closed with a few goals in mind: meet again in June after our visit to ECU’s Digital Collections team, and for me to draft a digital collection development policy/selection criteria. My initial thoughts? While disorganized, our meeting established our group’s commitment to a long-term digitization program. We will need to work on a project life cycle of our own in the near future.


One library’s trash…

…is another’s stored collection.

My department has a long history of collecting. Our most recent department head was famous for coming to the local history room at least once a month with a bag or two filled with genealogy manuscripts, rare books, and general curiosities — only to have them placed in our storage closet.

This type of acquisition-based system is not new or unfamiliar to many archivists. Nearly every special collections department has its stored collections, its undocumented acquisitions, its “what is that?” The good news is that processing archivists work hard to inventory and create finding aids for these record groups and objects.

Sometime in the last decade, our department acquired the entire contents of Wake Forest University’s vertical file collection. In approximately 14 banker’s boxes, our library suddenly acquired about 40 years worth of newspaper clippings, brochures, and other ephemera, arranged by topic. Our department has its own sizable vertical file collection that is frequently used to supplement research into old issues of the Winston-Salem Journal and other local newspapers (none of which are indexed).

I have to admit, both the WFU and our own vertical files seemed a bit primitive. “You mean…someone had to go through the newspaper and clip these articles out of the newspaper, then file them by topic?” That, along with the fact that our microfilmed newspapers were not indexed (let alone digitized), seemed hard to believe, if not archivally unsound. Both sets of clippings can be found pasted or Scotch-taped to chipboard or construction paper, but some include photocopies of the original clippings. At least they stopped clipping in the early 1990s, when the Journal started getting indexed online.

It was suggested that perhaps we interfile the clippings from Wake Forest with those of our own…but without knowing what already had been clipped, we would be duplicating our work…and with no more filing cabinets to use, expanding our collection by no fewer than a five thousand clippings seemed impossible. My solution? I created an Access database where our library page, my colleagues, and I could index the title, date, topic (as given), publication and page number for each publication — then toss the originals.

So far we have around 500 records in the database. I am not sure if this is the best solution but it is certainly an affordable one. A speaker at ALA Midwinter in Denver accosted a group interested in local history and genealogy about the benefits of going straight to digitization and OCR — and was unyielding in her argument even when a small-town librarian suggested indexing her clipping files.

Of course, digitizing our newspapers and OCR-ing them is my ultimate goal. North Carolina is working to create an historical newspapers program and I am paying careful attention to it. My goal is to learn how to make our database available for searching on our website…at least until we have full-text out there.

Are vertical files useful today? They can be — just ask the woman who came in a few weeks ago and found a photo of herself under “School Integration” in Winston-Salem. Should we strive to digitize and create full-text searching for our newspapers? Absolutely. Let’s begin by getting our collections out of storage, into finding aids and databases, and into the hands of researchers.