Wednesday, October 27, 2004

How do you find digitization projects online?

This question interests me because the information profession (and libraries in particular) has its own jargon. I remember writing in a monthly report to my boss -- a corporate manager -- that the library was doing a "retrospective conversion." As a non-librarian, my boss had no idea what I was talking about. In the same vain, people who are not involved in digitization projects do not know what the word "digitization" means. So if they are not familiar with this concept, how do they locate projects that would be useful to them? In other words, must they know the terms "digitization" or "digital library"?

I haven't done a study of this, but from the searching I do, I suspect that if someone knows the terminology used by digitization projects, one has an easier time finding projects on specific subjects. However, if one is unfamiliar with digitization projects, finding one project of interest might be like finding a needle in a haystack. This haystack gets even bigger when you realize that most people do not search effectively. Gary Price notes in an article written for Search Engine Watch that people average two words per query and two queries per session. In addition, people only look at the first page of search results. An article in the August issue of Information Outlook noted that people use the same term to describe a concept, item or object less than 20 percent of the time. So if people use only two terms and people don't use the same two terms, and don't realize that they should be looking for a digitization project, how will they find your project?

Of course, the answer is lots of metadata, however, in creating that metadata you must think of ALL the terms and related terms that a person might use to describe your project. Given that there are limits to how much metadata can be used, you will need to select the terms you use carefully. It would be helpful to ask potential users to think of words that might use to find a site such as yours. (Or how would they describe your site, subject or project?) It might also be useful to ask how they would spell those words. You might find that people aren't spelling terms as you assume (i.e., correctly), therefore you might want to add a common misspelling to your metadata. And since search engines might also index the text on various pages, you'll need to ensure that the text is descriptive. For example, instead of just saying "this picture", you might briefly describe the picture ("this picture of a Mayan temple..."). With the increased amount of text and metadata, we can hope that searchers will use some of the same terms/text and that the site will appear on the first page of results.

If you ask for feedback from users (e.g., though online forms), you might ask how people found your site. If they found it through a search engine, consider asking what terms they used for their search. Any information you gather could help you modify your metadata and text to be more effective.

In the end, a digitization project is successful if people use it. So helping people find your project is important. Your metadata and text are the keys to making that happen.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Using text, images, audio and video

Most web sites rely on text to convey their messages. On sites that contain digitized content, there is generally a mix of still images and text. Yet we learn not only by reading words and seeing pictures, but also through hearing the spoken word, music and sounds. A site that can combine text to read, images to view, audio to hear, and video to watch allows the users to taken in information in different ways. That site provides a more meaningful experience.

Creating and building such a site takes much planning and forethought. More thought must be given to the equipment that users will have access to, and if that equipment will be sufficient. If the user will need additional software, then thought must be given to how that software will be obtain. Hopefully it will be painless and easy for the users to install.

One digitization project that does a nice job of including audio is the Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Project at Stanford University. When you go to the web site, you hear audio of Dr. King immediately. The initial audio requires QuickTime and, if it is not on the user's computer, the site asks the user if he would like to download it. Several audio clips are available on the site of his speeches, as well as in Adobe PDF format. So, for example, you can read and listen to his final speech (I've Been To The Mountaintop). (These speeches are available in both QuickTime and Real Audio formats.)

The site's interactive chronology includes text, images, audio and video. The chronology also has links to items that are for sale, like a book King published in 1967. Here the site assumes that you have to correct software installed to play the audio and video. If you do not, it doesn't even tell you what software is needed. So even a well designed site such as this has its flaws.

But even with its flaws, it is a site that should inspire a digitization project to include various types of media, giving users a fuller experience.

Monday, October 25, 2004

WIPO online course on Intellectual Property

Addendum (3/13/2008): Occasionally I receive emails or comments asking about this course. This course below was sponsored by WIPO. I am not involved in WIPO or in this specific course. I do not know any specifics about the course or if it will be offered again. For that information, you will need to contact WIPO directly.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has a Worldwide Academy that is doing online courses in several languages. The general course on intellectual property is comprised of eleven (11) modules covered over a six week period (50 hours total). The eleven modules are:

(1) Introduction to IP
(2) Copyright
(3) Related Rights
(4) Trademarks
(5) Geographical Indications
(6) Industrial Design
(7) Patents
(8) WIPO Treaties
(9) Unfair Competition
(10) Protection of new varieties of plants
(11) Discussion and Summary on IP Rights

The target audience for this course includes government officials, staff in collective management societies, business managers in publishing, broadcasting and industry, students in faculties of law, business, chemistry, engineering, journalism, etc., who need a basic knowledge of IP.

The next class (course DL-101) will take place from March 1 to April 15, 2005. Registration will open from December 1, 2004 to January 31, 2005. Registration is done online at:

More information on the WIPO Worldwide Academy, including information on other courses, is available at:

Friday, October 15, 2004

Taking a hiatus from the blog

Even in this 24/7 world, we have to rest. Postings will resume on Monday, Oct. 25.

Treasures in full

The British Library has digitized various versions (quartos) of Shakespeare's plays and made them available on its web site so you can compare the quartos. There are 93 copies of the 21 plays. The twenty-one of Shakespeare's plays were published in quarto before 1642. Using the site, you can view two versions side-by-side, page-by-page.

This is a wonderful use of digitized items! It gives to scholars and non-scholars alike something that is useful (and fun). Students reading Shakespeare in school might use this site to research a paper, while people who are just interested in Shakespeare might like looking at the graphics used in the various quartos. It is also interesting to see -- from a web design point of view -- how the British Library presents the quartos, and what additional information they make available for users.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Finding digitization vendors

When I was at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference, I spoke to a vendor who noted that "in the old days" they could rely on advertising in the phonebook as a way of connecting with possible customers. But now, they have to find alternate means. It is not because people don't use the phonebook, but because the phonebook doesn't use headings that describe some of our "new" high tech businesses. For example, there is not a heading that relates to digitization.

So how do you find a digitization vendor? Internet search engines are helpful. There are vendor lists on various web sites. And some vendors are part of, so you might find them through that organization. Asking others in your region might yield a few names. But there is no way of finding every digitization vendor.

I've compiled a list of vendors in New York State for several digitization planning projects. An updated list will be published soon and will be announced here when it's available. A list compiled in 2003 is available in a preliminary assessment report for the Northern New York Library Network.

If you are involved in a digitization project, you can help others locate vendors by placing information on your web site about the vendors you used and brief information on the work they did for you. Every little piece of information helps...and your mention might be all someone needs in order to find the perfect vendor for a project.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Five-Year Information Format Trends Report

In 2003, OCLC released its "Five-Year Information Format Trends Report." Recently, it released an update to the report. The four main areas studied in the original report were:
  • Popular Materials
  • Scholarly Materials
  • Digitization Projects
  • Web Resources

The 2004 report takes about the content explosion that is occurring with the new communication technologies and the need for people to be connected all the time. The report also updates the areas of popular and scholarly materials.

One of the most interesting sections of the report is a section on new vocabulary such as:

  • Blogosphere
  • Blogroll
  • Dayparting
  • Digital Swarming
  • Fleshmet
  • Moblogs

(I'll have to try to use fleshmet in a sentence soon!)

By the way, the three top trends noted in 2003 for digitization were:

  • commercial digitization expanding
  • national digitization growing
  • state and local projects increasing

Monday, October 11, 2004

Winning the Vote

Last week, I wrote about two projects presented at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference held in Pittsburgh, PA. The project that I spoke about was formally named the Women's Suffrage Digitization Project, but became known as Winning The Vote.

Winning The Vote was a two-year project spearheaded by the Rochester (NY) Regional Library Council (RRLC). The project was supported by Federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funds, awarded to The New York State Library by the Federal Institute of Museum and Library Services. With RRLC as the the driving force behind the project, teams of people came together during the first year to learn about different aspects of digitization and to work on the guidelines and blueprint for Year Two, when the digitization was to occur. During Year Two, a team formed to work on different aspects of the project, including developing the web site. The team was primarily composed of RRLC staff members and outside contractors.

During Year Two about 200 items were digitized relating to the 30 suffragists -- both women and men -- who are featured on the site. Items were digitized from 18 institutions. The finished site was heavily marketed and is still well used, even though this was actually a demonstration project. (And as a demonstration project it is not receiving much maintenance.)

The presentation I gave, which gives an assessment of the project (valuable information for others involved in digitization projects), is available here.

This was a very valuable project to work on. I not only learned about doing a digitization project with multiple partners, but I also learned a lot of history. The items that are being digitized by projects ARE making more history available to people, and even those who work on the project learn! One of the most interesting facts I learned was about a domino, which is a type of mask. Look at this image to see dominoes being worn. You'll realize that you have seen these before, yet your feeling about them will change with this image.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

The New Jersey Digital Highway

Yesterday I wrote about the HistoryMakers, which was discussed at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference. Today I want to talk about the other project that was presented in the same session.

The New Jersey Digital Highway is striving to be the one portal needed to locate New Jersey's heritage collections. As the web site states:
The New Jersey Digital Highway (NJDH) is a new way to explore our history and culture. The Highway will bring together digitized versions of historical and cultural treasures from our libraries, museums, and historical collections. The result will be a digital archive of documents, photographs, 3-dimensional objects and sound and video recordings that you can either browse or search depending on your interest. NJDH will also provide virtual field trips and other digital activities for exploring and experiencing New Jersey.

The homepage gives users an opportunity to enter the site in a way that will make sense for them. They can enter through virtual on-ramps for everyone, educators, students and librarians/curators. Of interest to people involved in digitization projects will be the information provided for librarians and curators. Here is information on "metadata and digitization best practices, including workflow design and developing a business model for a digitization project." There are links to other resources including online forums for librarians and curators who are involved in the project.

Some of the site is still under construction, but it is worth taking a moment to explore and then note what features are coming.

As a person who has lived in both Pennsylvania and New York, I think the name of the site is wonderful! We joke that people in New Jersey talk about where they live by noting which exit they use on the New Jersey Turnpike or Garden State Parkway to get home. (Actually, I have heard people really do this.) Here is a site that takes that image and turns it into a huge positive. Very cool!

New options for reading/accessing this blog?

I've added two features to this blog that should help those of you who want to know about updates without coming to the site each day.

First, you can receive e-mail updates. By signing up for it (on the blog homepage), you will receive an e-mail update at night when there is a new posting to the blog. The e-mail update will give you the first couple of lines of the posting, so you can decide whether or not you would like to read the entire post.

Second, you can add this blog to your RSS reader. Just add to your RSS reader and you'll see headlines, etc., on the new posts. Easy!

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

The HistoryMakers

At the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC), I presented in a session with two other people, one of whom was Julieanna Richardson. Julieanna is an vibrant woman who has founded an incredible project called The HistoryMakers®, a national African American video oral history archive. The goal of the HistoryMakers is to videotape interviews with 5,000 African Americans -- well-known and unsung -- in order to capture their personal stories and their views of American life, society and culture.

According to the web site, "The HistoryMakers represents the single largest archival project of its kind in the world, outdistancing the existing video oral history collections of New York's Schomburg Library and the Birmingham Civil Rights Museum. The HistoryMakers is unique among these other collections of African American heritage, because of its massive scope. Like other oral history collections, The HistoryMakers collection hearkens back to the earliest and most authentic efforts to capture the voice of a people, while introducing state-of-the-art technology and increased accessibility. The HistoryMakers wants to provide living proof that African American history did not begin or end with the civil rights movement, that the HistoryMakers number in the thousands and that their names are not just Harriet Tubman, W.E.B. DuBois, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ella Fitzgerald."

The interviews are each three-hours in length. The interviews are both digitized and transcribed, and then indexed. The wishes of those interviewed are honored, such as not releasing the interview for use until after the person has died. That fact alone demonstrates the sensitivity of the HistoryMakers team. They recognize that some people will tell their stories but only if they don't have to answer questions about them! And for some, the personal stories may be painful; a pain that they want told, but not until later (again when they won't hear them).

One interesting aspect of the HistoryMakers is that the full interviews will not be available on the Internet. First, placing that amount of information that could be streamed (viewed) might be a burden on the servers. Second, if the information were cut into smaller segments, some of the context would be lost. Third, people might use the information out of context, which would be a disservice to those who were interviewed. And lastly, the HistoryMakers would like to control how the information is used. Yes, people will have access to everything, but not via the Internet, but more likely (long-term) through research libraries.

For now, the HistoryMakers archive is available by appointment only. In 2002, the HistoryMakers was designated a special collection of the Illinois State Library system. The archives, which are open to the public, can be visited between the hours of 9:00 a.m. - 5 p.m. at 1900 South Michigan Avenue in Chicago. You can contact Edward Williams at (312) 674-1900 to schedule an appointment.

People "buzzed" around Julieanna after the session. She captured people's imagination and their need for history. She also talked about a digitization project that is much different than most. It was as if someone screamed, "look at the possibilities" and we did.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Regional archives conference

Last week, I had the privilege to present at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC), which was held in Pittsburgh, PA. I had not heard of MARAC until they asked me to come to the conference. But this opened my eyes to other archive organizations in the U.S. and Canada. A list of 20 is available on the New England Archivists web site. The smaller organizations allow for more networking, while still providing very worthwhile programs and educational opportunities. They are focusing on digitization (the topic of my talk) and learning from each other how to do it better. And they are attracting digitization vendors to their conferences.

If you are interested in digitization and interested in how archives are approaching digitization projects, consider attending a regional archives meeting. I bet you won't be disappointed.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

New executive director of the Collaborative Digitization Program

Jill Koelling has been appointed the new executive director of the Collaborative Digitization Program (formerly known as the Colorado Digitization Project). Ms. Koelling will begin her new post on Oct. 18. She comes to the CDP from Cline Library at Northern Arizona University, where she was the curator of Visual Materials. She has extensive experience in digital asset projects.

The press release announcing Ms. Koelling's appointment can be viewed here.