Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Thinking about software

Over the last four days, I've been in a couple interesting conversations on digital asset management (DAM) software. The questions that have been raised boil down to:
  • Can small institutions afford these packages (especially those that seemed preferred in the marketplace)? The answer for many is "no." Another consultant that I spoke with recently said that he was setting up a temporary solution with some of his small clients (and one that could be easily migrated), so that they had a rudimentary retrieval/tracking system in place.
    • What about Greenstone? Good question. Although it is distributed freely, libraries need to have a higher level of technical sophistication in order to use it. A small library may not have the technical resources (or time/money to acquire them) in order to use Greenstone.
  • Can institutions partner in a way that would allow them access to more expensive software? Several library consortia in New York State are looking into this. This could make the costs more tolerable as long as vendors (like DiMeMa/OCLC) don't make the entry level pricing too high for these consortia that are in cash-strapped situations.
  • How do these packages function really? This question came to mind as I was looking at CONTENTdm this weekend. After reading the product literature, I looked at some of the projects that had installed it and checked to see if they had implemented a particular feature (highlighting). Since none that I saw had, I wonder now if it is a feature that is difficult to implement or just not seen as worth it? Articles and papers on real-life experiences should be widely circulated on these digital asset management systems, so that everyone knows the pros and cons.
    • Articles should also include information on how/why the institution decided to implement specific features.
  • The functionality on that site is useful (e.g., the highlighting in Google Print) -- what software are they using? We know that CONTENTdm will highlight and we know that Google Print highlights, so is Google using CONTENTdm? We don't have enough data to say that and Google's not talking. So here other projects are wanting to implement or at least investigate the software that Google is use, but unable to because Google has everyone under non-disclosures. (I'm singling out Google here, but there are other projects that are very closed-mouth.)
    • In 2003 - 2004, I had two MLS interns work with me on a list of projects and people worth watching in digitization. These were projects and people that were doing important work AND that we could learn from. Google is doing important work, but they are making it impossible for us to learn from them. There is no trail for us to follow and no lessons learned being published.
  • How do you truly find the right DAM software for your project? It seems from a conversation I had yesterday with another consultant that the best way is to talk to lots of people, who travel in different circles than you. What have they used? What software are they talking about? What have they heard that might help you? Perhaps you'll still select the "hot" software being used in your region, but at least you will have gather more information before making a decision.
  • What will the merger of Dynix and Sirsi mean to the software they market for DAM (and to their customers)? (And lets' not forget that Dynix has a partnership with PTFS that also sells software.) The only obvious answer is that the number of choices will decrease.
These conversations ended with everyone feeling the need to do more research and to continue to exchange what we know.

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Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

My public library in Australia is looking to purchase a digital assets management tool. As we are a Horizon Library (SirsiDynix), we were leaning towards ArchivalWare from PTFS.
How does it compare to CONTENTdm and DigiTool? These are about the only other products available in Australia. The vendor tells us that ArchivalWare is much more functional than Unicorn's Hyperion.
There is not much of a 'community of experts' I can consult with as the larger institutions such as Universities seem to have mostly built their own systems.
Any comments on these systems would be appreciated.