Monday, July 20, 2009

A good analogy for the size and requirements of digitization programs

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of sitting next to Gregg Tripoli, executive director of the Onondaga Historical Association Museum & Research Center. Before the meeting that we were both attending, our conversation rambled and at one point we talked about homes. Yankees baseball player, Derek Jeter, is building a 31,000 square-foot home in Tampa, FL. I suspect that most homes in my neighborhood are around 1,200 sq. ft. Gregg spoke of a home that has 2,800 sq. ft. that he is acquainted with. Each home required a different number of people to maintain it. That conversation laid the groundwork for a great analogy later in the day.

Digitization programs come in different sizes.

Some organizations conceive of small programs whose long-term maintenance can be done in-house by a few people. This is like the owners of a 1,200 sq. ft. house who can do the upkeep themselves.

Some organizations conceive of programs that will require a group of people who can handle different chores on an as-needed basis. Some large homes, especially vacation homes, operate on this principle. Everything is maintained as long as each person does his/her job. If the people are doing this as "side jobs" or as volunteers, there could eventually be problems when people get tired of doing their chores.

Then there are large programs that require a team that works constantly to keep things going. This is like Derek Jeter's home. With 31,000 sq. ft., staff will have to be available all the time to ensure that nothing goes wrong. So too the large scale digitization programs and large digital library programs that are becoming more the norm.

Unfortunately, some large programs think that they don't need many resources to maintain their efforts. They want the owner to maintain a 31,000 sq. ft. house by himself. That just doesn't work.

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