Delayed Liveblogging of NITLE, “Scholarly Collaboration”, final session

Session on digitization.

Eric Luhrs, Lafayette University, “Maximizing Digitization Efforts at Small Liberal Arts Colleges”.

Small institutions have low barriers to digitization: bureaucracy is very informal, collaboration is easier, faculty are more accessible to IT and library staff engaged in digitization

Decentralizing the process is crucial: big digitization programs are centralized, workflow tools follow this. Luhrs and his colleagues wanted more flexibility.

MetaDB workflow. Digital Initiatives Librarian defines metadata, students enter technical metadata, librarians and archivests provide administrative and descriptive metadata, faculty subject specialists access non-circulating material, Digital Initiatives librarian exports the completed records. Dublin Core metadata set.

Advantages of the process they’ve settled on: allows them to distribute tasks around campus and off-campus, multiple users working, automate where possible, superior interface for storing and editing medata, no licensing hassles, nothing proprietary

Strong relationships, need a clear vantage point on purpose to manage project, don’t design without consulting or talking to people

Very clear perspective, very matter-of-fact and pragmatic. I really like this–not telling faculty that they’ve got to do it one way and no other, but also keep marching ahead steadily on a goal. I think so many digitization and collaboration projects either succeed or fail on this kind of “hidden” procedural work, on the nitty-gritty. It’s not a matter of knowledge per se, it’s about attitude–a kind of can-do, real-world execution.

One thing I think about a lot is how to get faculty in the right position with digitization or other digital projects: to cut channels for their expertise and also to understand what they’re actually going to do or want to do with a project once it’s completed. One of the problems is that if you ask faculty, ‘What do you want?’ they’ll often tell you something idealized, something that they think that they ought to want, not what they’re actually likely to do. But you also want to avoid being so open to faculty input that you give the kind of faculty who are inclined to be a nuisance the opportunity to impede forward motion.

In questions, Luhrs also talks about some of the fine-grained issues with some of these applications and procedures.

This is something that gets talked about a lot with software design, but it still fascinates me how much most software applications do things which are profoundly antagonistic and completely unnecessary to actual users when you get down to the fine details.


Paul Barclay, Lafayette College

Faculty perspective on some of the digitization that Luhrs was describing. Barclay is trying to figure out where the proper place for scholars to enter into the picture, and says it’s absolutely not at the point where decisions about metadata, digitization format, process and so on are being made, because the cultures of use and practice around evidence and archives among scholars are so radically different.

The problem for me is that there are moments where decisions about metadata have implications for the logic of how we find evidence and data in archives or repositories, and if you don’t understand (and maybe participate) in the construction of metadata, you’re kind of a permanent victim. of archiving processes that are intended to help the end-user.

Barclay gave the Lafayette digitizers a big box of images from Taiwan, and he talks about how some of the structuring that flowed from the digitization associated images together that were sometimes unexpected from his perspective. But the process was actually pretty collaborative, and in what seems to me to be a healthy way.

It seems to me that Luhrs did a very good job of “translating” the processes and procedures for Barclay so that he knew what do do and how to do it, without having to necessarily understand the technical particulars.

John Trendler, Scripps College, “Visual Resource Collection at Scripps”. Again the importance of managing details properly, importance of creating low barriers to collaboration, making it possible for serendipitous connections between staff and faculty. Same lessons about getting well into a project before making key decisions about hardware, software, process, procedure rather than making those decisions inflexibly before you start. Many detailed tech lessons, worked out over time.

Based on this, if your college were about to begin digitizing visual materials on an extensive basis, I’d say to contact Trendler for some of the specs and procedures that Scripps has adopted. Very well scaled to a small institution.

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