Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Teaching about digital assets

Yesterday I agreed to teach a course entitled "Creating, Managing and Preserving Digital Assets" for Syracuse University during the Spring 2005 semester. The class, which I've taught before, will be done solely online.

Teaching about digitization in an online environment, without ever seeing your students, is an interesting adventure. One must decide how to talk about the various aspects of creating, managing and preserving digital objects/images in a way that makes students realize that there is more to know -- that digitization isn't as easy as one thinks.

One challenge that I encountered last spring was having student find digitization vendors to talk to and write about for an assignment. Here in New York State, there are many vendors. Yes, you might have to drive to get to the perfect vendor, but we have vendors nonetheless. But not so in other parts of the country. In the central part of the country and near the Rocky Mountains, vendors are hard to find. In fact, they don't exist in some areas at all. Rather than being able to visit a vendor, students had to rely on information gathered electronically about the vendors or through telephone conversations.

And some vendors would not talk to students. Did they fear giving away some secret? Did they suspect that the students were actually competitors? Sadly, vendors gave up an opportunity to talk to a group that will be needing their services in the future OR who might refer a potential client. Very sad.

It was also sad that some vendors were unknown entities in their community. This occurred in California where one student talked to local libraries and museums about digitization vendors in the region, but they knew of none. The student did finally find a couple of vendors, who were missing out on a market that needed them.

For now, who knows what adventures this class will bring. Hopefully the adventures will be fun.

By the way, I'm again using the book by NEDCC entitled HANDBOOK FOR DIGITAL PROJECTS: A Management Tool for Preservation and Access, which is available only online. I'll be supplementing that will a wide variety of readings from reputable sources found on the Internet and in article databases like OCLC FirstSearch.

Monday, November 29, 2004

David Weinberger's presentation

I have now listened to David Weinberger's presentation -- part of the series on "The Digital Future" -- twice. Yes, it is that good. Weinberger talks at great length about knowledge. In the beginning, knowledge was something that was shared by everyone. Everyone was knowledgeable in something. Over the years, however, philosophers began to "bottle" knowledge and categorize it. Knowledge was no longer something that everyone had some of, but was something that belonged to experts and was found in specific places. He notes, though, that the Internet has changed that.

With the Internet, we now see knowledge being shared in personal ways through e-mail, online forums and blogs. In other words, people are making what they know available by self-publishing. That knowledge may not be lofty, but may be very useful. He talks about reading product reviews written by real people who had used the products.

We need more people to create blogs, not so much on personal topics, but on those professional and business topics. We need people to share their experiences and give lessons learned. For example, wouldn't it be wonderful if a digitization project published a daily or weekly blog that chronicled the project's progress as well as successes and failures? Imagine the lessons that could be learned. What digitization project would take on this challenge? Will any? Doing so could allow a project to teach us in real-time what to do (or not to do), rather than waiting for the project to do a presentation or publish an article. It would be very helpful. And it would make David Weinberger very happy.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Wikipedia entries on digitization

The Internet allows individual people to contribute to the world's knowledge bank. Wikipedia is a site that allows people to contribute through original text or by adding or modifying text. It is self described as a free content encyclopedia written collaboratively by contributors from around the world." Wikipedia contains only a few pages of information on digitization. Not enough to do the subject justice. Those of us involved in digitization should take it upon ourselves to contribute.

Those few pages in wikipedia that relate to digitization are:

By the way, once you're in wikipedia, you may never leave! There are many topics covered and it's fun just to wander and read what knowledge others are leaving for us.

Friday, November 19, 2004

The Digital Future: A Library of Congress Series

The Library of Congress is hosting a series of seven discussions on "The Digital Future." The series is being televised on C-SPAN and programs will be available on the C-SPAN web site. The first discussion aired on Nov. 15 and had David Weinberger, former senior internet adviser to the Howard Dean campaign, discussing how Weblogs work and their value in gathering knowledge.

The next program will be on Monday, Dec. 13, 2004 (with Brewster Kahle). The last discussion will be on Monday, March 28, 2005. Please note that during the live discussions, people can submit questions via e-mail.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

National Digital Newspaper Program to digitize 30 million newspaper pages

The National Digital Newspaper Program, an initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Library of Congress, plans on digitizing 30 million newspaper pages originally printed between 1836 and 1922. The digitized content is planned to be available by 2006. Currently these newspapers are available in microfirm. Digitizing and placing them on the Internet would give people much better access to this slice of history.

This time period (1836 - 1922) was selected because, newspapers prior to 1836 will not be digitized because the typefaces are difficult for optical scanners to read. Newspapers published after 1923 are covered by copyright restrictions.

For more information read this article in the San Jose Mercury News.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Digital Library Construction Tools: How-To Manuals

David Mattison maintains a list of how-to manuals for constructing digital libraries on the British Columbia Digital Library web site. From that page, you can quickly jump to other pages that he maintains on how-to courses, standards and other topics.

The British Columbia Digital Library web site is not a government site, but seems to be the work of two people who are trying to further the development of digital libraries in that region. They have created a site worth bookmarking.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Digital Permanence: Our reliance on technology

Digitization and the creation of digital libraries both assume access to the necessary technology for those creating as well as those viewing. We assume -- both rightly and wrongly -- that what we have technically will always be as good as it is now.

The area of digital permanence looks at what we need to do to ensure that the digital images created today will be available for us to use in the future. We tend to think five or ten years into the future, but considering that we're still reading works written centuries ago, we do need to work towards a digital permanence that is "permanent."

However, it takes only one electricity outage or one disk drive go bad to remind us that, without technology, these digital images and digital libraries are meaningless. If we are betting on maintaining valuable information in a form that requires technology to view, then we need a plan to ensure that this information truly does remain accessible. Currently all we have is hope which can be dashed with one massive power outage.

What does this mean to you? Look at your storage options and ensure that you select the right option for the material. Perhaps you digitize for access, but store the original hardcopy items in an archive. Maybe you don't need immediate access, to you put your materials in compact/off-site storage. Or maybe the information is important/useful, but not critical, so you keep only a digital copy. Do what makes sense both for the short term (five years) and the long term (100+ years).

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Digital content: E-books

I am always intrigued when a discussion of new technologies arises. We tout tools such as e-books, but many people don't use them. In fact, many people don't even try them.

An e-book could be a book that has been digitized and then made available electronically in a book format, or an e-book could be something that is only published in an electronic format. There are several e-book formats and e-book readers available, with some allowing bookmarking, annotating, and highlighting. Some also allow for the font size to be changed, making it easier for people who don't want to squint at small fonts.

E-books can be read on a PC, laptop, e-book reader, PDA or even a high-tech cell phone. I keep a book on my PDA to read when I'm waiting for a meeting or when I'm traveling. Since I read only occasionally, it does take me a while to get though a book, although sometimes the book is SO good that I find myself curling up with the e-book in order to get done. (The Hacker Crackdown was such a book, available in plain text and e-book formats.)

But why don't people try e-books, especially those in the information industry who should be trying out new information technologies (like librarians)? I can only guess because it takes effort to use an e-book. You must decide on what reader to use, then find a book for that reader. People might be turned off by the cost of an e-book, although you can find free e-books. (I use the free reader software from Peanut Press and always read free e-books. You see a list of e-book titles here.) People take about not being able to do the same things that they do with a hardbound book and not being comfortable curling up with an e-book. However, are people missing an opportunity to carry and read an e-book when it not be as easy to carry a regular book? Whatever the excuse, if people in the information industry don't try e-books then they won't be able to relate to those people who are using the technology. They also won't be able to recommend e-books, when appropriate. And they won't know how to recommend changes to the technology that would make it more desirable for everyone else.

Anf for those involved in a digitization project, if the suggestion is made to digitize content and use it to create e-books, will you know enough about e-books to be able to contribute to the discussion and decision-making process?

Something to think about.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Teaching with Colorado's Heritage

Colorado Digitization Program has published online a final grant report entitled "Teaching with Colorado's Heritage." The 144-page document reports on the IMLS grant to create a "state-based school librarian and teaching training program that has comprehensively trained over 200 educators how to search for and use digital primary source material and how to integrate content-rich technology with state-based standards."

The Colorado Digitization Program increased awareness of digital primary sources and taught educators and students to use the sources through:
  • Hour-long classes to educate students and current educators
  • Sending promotional materials to 1,572 school media specialists in Colorado
  • Having participating educators create 65 lessons using digital primary source materials that are now available to educators nationwide
  • Having 79 participates in regional and week-long workshops train at least three other educators
  • Hosting a two-hour live teleconference that reached an estimated 10,000 K-20 educators, librarians and archivists nationwide
The report includes workshop agendas and other documents in the appendix.

The Hidden Cost of Buying Information

This article on the Harvard Business School Working Knowledge web site is very interesting. In her research,
"Francesca Gino suggests that if we pay for information, we tend to overweigh its actual value." The article includes implications for consultants, who bring information to light which then cannot be ignored.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Digitization information on Google

Google is probably the most popular search engine. We might forget, though, that it also has a directory where information is categorized for us to retrieve. The Google Directory does has three sections that cover digitization.

First, if you search on digitization in the Google Directory, you will find this page. This contains a long list of digitization projects. Since the list grows by people submitting sites to it, people involved in projects need to submit theirs to this Google Directory.

Second, Google has the category of Reference > Library > Digital. This category contains links to both digital libraries and digitization projects. Again, the list grows through site submissions, so projects need to be proactive in getting listed here.

Third, there is the category of Digital Library Development. Since many digitization projects are part of digital libraries, this is also a good place to look for information related to digitization projects and standards.

So remember to search the web using Google for information on digitization projects, but don't forget to check the Google Directories. The Directories may be a faster way of finding just what you need.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Hellenic Digitization Committee Questionnaire for Digitization Projects

In Greece, the Hellenic Digitization Committee (HDC) is compiling information on digitization projects through a questionnaire on its web site. A list of all of the projects submitted to HDC for inclusion on its list is available here. The list includes the name of the project, the project coordinator, who completed the questionnaire, the project's web site (URL), the duration of the project, and the project's status. The list includes such projects as the 3D Reconstruction of Parthenon, Chania Turkish Archive, and e-ISLAM.

Monday, November 01, 2004

The Changing Information Cycle

In the Sept./Oct. issue of Online, Greg R. Notess writes on "The Changing Information Cycle." Prior to the Internet, the information life-cycle followed a clear path from rumor through article and on to appearing in a published index. But with the Internet, the life-cycle has changed so that commentary, corrections, and updated information can appear in nearly any sequence and at any time. At the end of the article Notess talks about the need to retrain ourselves in how we search for answers on the Internet. He says, "...I find that I am working on retraining myself to dig more deeply on the Web, to look more broadly at the range of answers, and to search for the combination of resources that gives a more knowledgeable answer. Much of that retraining involves looking at comments critically, to track links in both directions, to seek out divergent views, and to evaluate much of the content based on the Internet's information cycle rather than the print information cycle."

We must also retrain ourselves to look for more than words. With more information becoming available as audio, video and image files (through born digital as well as digitization efforts), we need to look for information in any format.

Content management, chunking and Tony Byrne

Alice Marie Marshall of Presto Vivace, Inc. wrote a blog posting last week that summarized Tony Byrne's Oct. 14 speech at NCC AIIM recently. Tony Byrne is the founder of CMS Watch which provides information, trends, opinion, and analysis about Web Content Management and Enterprise Content Management solutions. This speech covers the content management marketplace, trends, and technologies. With content management systems playing a role in some digitization projects, this article is worth perusing.