Friday, November 16, 2007

Are we engaging in overkill?

In the last month, I have had two conversations with colleagues where each had the same thought -- some of what we're doing with digitization is overkill. No, they weren't talking about the conversion process, but about the software we're using to store our digital assets and the metadata. Each made compelling arguments, which I'll repeat for your edification!

Thinking of the software we're investing in to house our digital assets and metadata, are we spending too much money on it? Are we investing in software that either does too much or doesn't do what we need? Are we jumping on software "bandwagons" because others have jumped on and we think we should follow them? Both people pointed to the same piece of software when talking about this. It's expensive with good features, and a lot of programs are using it. (You get three guesses and the first two don't count.) The problem is that there are programs using this software that really don't need it, but are taking the easy route (for a variety of reasons, I'm sure) and going along with the decision others have made.

As we play follow-the-leader, we're ignoring lots of software including open source options. One open source option that you likely have not seen is Scriblio, which is a project of Plymouth State University. One digitization project that has used Scriblio is Beyond Brown Paper. (I'm only mentioning this to make you aware that it exists.)

Now I must be honest and tell you that I actually do tell people to consider the software that others in their region are using, because they will have people nearby that they can be supportive. However, it concerns me that programs may be jumping over the product evaluation stage and making a decision based on the bandwagon.

As for our metadata, the question that arose today was "who is all of this metadata for"? Do our users need it? (Yes, a librarian asked this question.) My answer what that we're creating robust metadata for the future. We keeping information that may not be important today, but may come in handy in the future (like information on how the materials were converted). It could be many years before we really know if we've created too little or too much metadata for specific programs.

Do our users need all of the metadata we're creating? No, but I'm not sure that is a reason to create less. Rather perhaps we should show our users less metadata as the default.

BTW I'm not a "cataloguing" librarian, so maybe someone from a cataloguing/metadata background can convince me that the time, effort and expense of creating robust metadata is always worth it.

Am I nuts for admitting that these conversations occur? Hopefully not, but I'll let you decide.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You are right. I am a photographer and i think we, the creative class, are spending to much time in making 'the metadata industry possible.

there is not reason to spending such amount of money any time in the pros production process- think photography here. The old saying that a photo have 1000 words it's still relevant.

I afraid that we(and i am fundamentally speaking about the photographer here- are somehow trying to fit 'the sea into the hole" to make some Adove shareholders richest?