30 July 2014

Metadata for Image Collections - American Libraries Magazine

I posted an image on our Facebook page from the Lucille Hasell Culp Collection over the weekend and received more than 1500 views as of 27 July 2014. I am glad that people are enjoying her work via our post. I am glad that the image of the dock from the Regatta is allowing people to reminiscence. I know that the public is hungry for digital collections but I am saddened that there is little recognition for all the planning, work, and expense that have to go into making an image available to the public on a long-term basis. There is an ocean-wide distance between clicking an image to your cell phone, computer, or camera and curating that image for 2114. Cultural heritage institutions are charged with taking the long view. We want people to still be able to enjoy the Regatta image a 100 years from now. Thus, cultural heritage institutions commit to being digital curators when we digitize an image.

As our regular readers know, the Beaufort District Collection operates with only two staff members. In and around other duties, we occasionally get to work on digitizing some of our thousands of materials. Doing digitization correctly takes lots of thought and time as the article below indicates. In some ways, it's like deciding whether or not to get married: "[Digitization] is not by any to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of [Bad Metadata]" - which is precisely the point that Eddie Woodward, digital projects coordinator at the Norfolk (Va.) Public Library, makes in his article "Inverse proportions: The quantity vs. quality conundrum" in this month's American Libraries Magazine.
Metadata for Image Collections - American Libraries Magazine   

Trust me, I couldn't say it any better than Woodward does in this article.  

Bottom line: Creating digital collections is a wagon load of work, requires consideration of discovery and standardized vocabularies, and intense concentration making it well nigh impossible to "fit" the work in around necessary library and archival tasks. And then, there is always the concern about longevity, refreshing of digital data, and costs for creation and maintenance. Most special collections units who choose to enter the digital realm, do so using outside vendors ($) and/or have 4 to 6 people on staff to share the necessary work. 

We would not have the two collections we have up now without the considerable expertise and assistance of our partnership with the Lowcountry Digital Library and its creator, the South Carolina Digital Library. In some ways, the success of our two digital collections hosted within the Lowcountry Digital Library is almost a miracle. I'll write about statistics relating to those digital collections here next week. 

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