Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wayback Wednesday: Digitization - Ubiquitous?

When I first got involved in digitization, we called it scanning.  It was a slow process, compared to today, and fraught with finicky and expensive hardware and software.  What we could scan in an hour, we can now do very quickly on a photocopier with scanning capabilities. (And I'll note that the photocopier of today does a better job then the scanners I had access to around 1990.)  Over time, were developed terms, techniques, and processes around digital curation, preservation, etc., and it became much more than just scanning.

Walkway at Governor's Island, VAFast forward to 1998-2000 and efforts to get more cultural heritage organizations involved in digitization.  Clearly they all have content that should be more widely available.  Clearly digitization is something that they could benefit from.  Clearly, though, small organization then - and now - do not have the budget or manpower to embark on something like this.  Thankfully, some larger organizations have worked with smaller organizations to get their materials digitized.  For example, in Central New York, the Central NY Library Resources Council has LIS interns working with small cultural heritage organizations to digitized their content

I am tempted to write that digitization is not ubiquitous today, yet that is not true.  I have a multi-function printer at home that scans and I know others do as well.  So the act of turning paper into a digital file is ubiquitous.  People likely do it daily, but never think of the word "digitization".  Nor do they think about what could happen after that paper is made digital.  And that is where we can make a difference.  Not only with people in our communities, but with staff at cultural heritage organizations.  We can be their advisors, their guides, their manpower...but we're not.  Why? Is it that they do not value our skills, don't know about our skills, or that we are looking for bigger/better opportunities?

As I look at my LIS students, I see people who are excited by digital technologies and about areas of study such as data science.  I see them interested in aspects of digital libraries and digitization, but their focus is shifting.  A growing number are interested in the preservation of cultural heritage, which has digitization as one of its electives.    

I am reminded of when I took a course in Cobol (around 1988).  My boss told me that I was taking a history class, because Cobol was a thing of the past.  Today corporations are still looking for Cobol programmers and people who know other "archaic" programming languages.  Will there be a time when the same will be true for digitization?  We will be looking for people who can get down and dirty with the basics?  Who can work with people who are at the beginning of their thought process on making things digital?

Jill...where are you going with this post? Dunno.  I've labeled this post "Wayback Wednesday", which is a label I've used when I've pulled older content from this blog forward into the present.  This post, however, is me ruminating on where we've been (wayback) and where we are today (Wednesday!).  And I don't think I have answers for my questions.  Perhaps I need to continue to think about "digitization" in terms of skills, curriculum, job opportunities, etc.  Like learning Cobol, perhaps I need to find ways of making those basic skills important for today. 

1 comment:

Rafiq said...

Yes, Jill it is interesting. My area of doctoral research was digitization. It is still an emerging and increasing popular area in developing countries. I believe the culture, heritage and scholarship of developing countries is worthwhile to convert and make available through digital means. Answer is digitization. Think about non-Roman script languages. The quest has still worth to explore.