The Big Picture

From UA Libraries Digital Services Planning and Documentation
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  • We’re creating a modular, open content system based on open-source software, accessibility, simplicity, and sustainability.
  • We are only developing what we or users need, and no more.
  • In order to support the development of user-friendly web tools, the content is openly available in web directories (using derivatives such as jpegs; archival files are of course protected). As we proceed, these will become a primary focus of interest.
  • Content must also be easily accessible to us for alteration or extraction, and thus is not “ingested” into any system from which it must be extracted and then re-uploaded.
  • Duplication of files is kept to a minimum, reducing storage costs and confusion.
  • We’re using the lowest-cost, simplest, most practical approach to both delivery and preservation that we can find or develop.
  • We streamline workflows as much as possible; one example of this is having a single standardized set of descriptive metadata elements from which we use only those which apply to a particular set of content.

Much of our digitization content previously flowed in a pipeline which roughly corresponds to this:

Archivist preparation  -->  Digitization --> archival storage  and  Metadata remediation --> web delivery --> archival storage of remediated files.

To increase the speed at which content is accessible, and provide Metadata librarians time for remediation at their own pace, we have altered this to:

Archivist preparation -->  Digitization --> archival storage --> web delivery --> Metadata remediation --> improved web delivery --> archival storage of remediated files

Additionally, due to the limitations of archivist time, we are seeking ways to avoid their involvement to the extent possible while still delivering quality content to scholars in a usable form (hence the pilot projects described in my book chapter for Digitization in the Real World).

This organized, simple, technically straightforward approach to making digital content available poses us as potential leaders in the field, and it can feasibly scale to replace the use of CONTENTdm for both local holdings and also for shared search interfaces such as AlabamaMosaic. In addition, the organization and preservation strategies we are using could serve as a life raft for underfunded institutions to ensure their content will survive. As tools are developed to make our content more usable to scholars, and as we begin to incorporate user tagging and descriptions into our search and display, we expect much attention and emulation from other institutions.

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