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 hangingtogether.org 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.