Monday, April 04, 2005

Apprenticeships in digitization

On April 1, John Dean, the Preservation and Conservation Librarian in the Department of Preservation and Collection Maintenance of Cornell University Library, gave the inaugural lecture of an endowed lecture and workshop series funded by the Brodsky Endowment for the Advancement of Library Conservation at Syracuse University's Bird Library. During his lecture, Dean spoke about the apprenticeship he did when he was in his 20s (a long time ago) in order to learn the book arts (the traditional crafts of book-making).

As he spoke, it occurred to me that an apprenticeship in digitization that lasted for several years would be a wonderful way to teach all of the aspects of digitization in away that would ensure that the person could go out, work on and lead a major project. As with the book arts, the apprentice would start by learning the basics by actually doing them. The person would be then trained on more advanced concepts as well as other areas (e.g., digitization, metadata, digital preservation) by actually doing the work with those who are experienced in the areas (...those that have already been thrown into the fire and can teach others what they learned from that experience...).

Imagine being an apprentice on the Colorado Digitization Program for several years (paid, of course) and being able to learn all the aspects of the project. Picture the types of projects you could lead (or envision) after such an apprenticeship. Think of how prepared you would be to contribute to the future of digitization and digital libraries.

Wouldn't it be great if funding agencies funded apprenticeships? Wouldn't that be a great way of ensuring the future of digitization? And wouldn't it be great if projects created apprenticeships? They would reap the benefit while providing valuable training.

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