Wednesday, September 08, 2004

A framework of guidance

In 2001, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) published A Framework of Guidance for Building Good Digital Collections. This document was created with input from people and organizations that were at the forefront of digitization. The introduction states:
This document is not a guideline itself but rather a framework for identifying,
organizing, and applying existing knowledge and resources that can be used as an
aid in the development of local guidelines and procedures.

Although more recent documents may point to better resources, this document is still important because of the framework is give and the challenge offered subtly in the second paragraph. It states:
In the early days of digitization for the Web, projects could be justified as
vehicles for the development of methods and technologies, as experiments in
technical or organizational innovation, or simply as learning experiences. A
collection could be good if it provided proof of concept, even if it disappeared
at the end of the project period. As the environment matured, the focus of
collection building shifted towards the more utilitarian goal of making relevant
content available digitally to some community of users. The bar of goodness was
accordingly raised to include levels of usability, accessibility and fitness for
use appropriate to the anticipated user group. We have now entered a third
stage, where even serving information effectively to a known constituency is not
sufficient. In today's digital environment, the context of content is a vast
international network of digital materials and services. Objects, metadata and
collections should be viewed not only within the context of the projects that
created them but as building blocks that others can reuse, repackage, and build
services upon. Indicators of goodness correspondingly must now also emphasize
factors contributing to interoperability, reusability, persistence, verification
and documentation. At the same time attention must be focused on mechanisms for
respecting copyright and intellectual property law.
This challenges us not to create demonstration projects (which might be referred to as first stage projects), but to create projects that consider such concepts as interoperability, reusability, and persistence among others. A third stage project is well planned. It not only considers the present need, but also looks towards other unknown uses in the future. A third stage project is forward thinking.

If you are considering a demonstration project, stop and ask yourself why. Why do you need a demonstration project? Is it a way of learning more about digitization? Do you need to prove that digitization will work for your institution? Instead of just doing a demonstration project, could you make it the first step in a third stage project? In other words, can you move yourself (and your institution) beyond just a demonstration project?

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