Thursday, 26 September 2013
I’m not sure what the rest of the semester has in store, but I feel like the information about file management might be the most portable knowledge set for me. The key to all of the topics was the importance of “responsible” file management. I scanned a great deal of the photographs at Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum for various researchers, saved the JPEG in a random file folder and never looked back. If I was going to make the best use of my time, I would have chosen the appropriate scanner settings to create a TIFF file for preservation, a JPEG file for access, and a GIF file for posting thumbnails on our website. I also would have named the files according to a prescribed format and stored them in a place that my colleagues could access. Our discussion included a description of lossless versus lossy file types, bit depths, and pixels; which had been explained to me many times before but digital scans gave a concrete example of their applications. When we were talking about Photoshop and proprietary software file types, all I could think about was how frustrating iTunes’ “.aac” file extensions could be when I was not using an Apple music player. There are so many consequences of digital obsolescence when we invest in file types that are not open or popular. Linda recommended that we stick to these open file types (TIFF, JEPG, PNG, GIF) because there will be a better chance for us to access them in perpetuity. As for file naming strategies, the methodology seems endless but the most important aspect is documentation, if no one knows the logic, it won’t be replicated. The idea that all of the work would have to be renamed or ignored is a scary enough notion to make me record every step in my process.
Today in class, we were asked to work in teams and look at several archival collections and make recommendations about including them in a digitization program. Over the past two classes we talked about copyright, scanning processes, preservation, costs, research values, and digital program purposes as factors in the digitization selection process. Among the members of my group, we had very different ideas of what should make an item eligible for digitization. For a collection of romantic correspondence between two members of the Pasadena community, dating back to the late 1890s, I thought we might encounter privacy concerns, the copyright was ambiguous, making the hand written text searchable would be challenging, and the paper was relatively stable in its current state; therefore there was no urgency to digitize. One my peers insisted that the content of the letters was very important for researchers, the copyright could easily be determined, and the stability of the paper meant it was an excellent candidate for a flatbed scanner, therefore it was a high priority digitization candidate. Our group also examined a collection of annual reports from the school’s physical education department and some student scrapbooks. Throughout the lectures, we looked a flow charts and selection criteria that were designed to remove the bias and inconsistencies from the selection process, but our assignment demonstrated how difficult that could be. For the assignment, there was no concrete context, nor real budget, staffing, or equipment limitations that could help us to make better decisions. When these things are defined and the flow charts that are created with agreed upon definitions and parameters that make sense within a given institution, a set of criteria would be invaluable.
Tuesday, 17 September 2013
This week’s lecture delved into the basic administrative questions regarding digital programs. How much is it going to cost and what kind of equipment will we need? Linda shared a cost estimate broken down as follows, 10% - preparation, 10% - digitization, 40% - metadata, and 30% - delivery. We asked her what was included in this metadata portion, and she replied, “research and data entry”. Someone who can generate quality metadata has the earning potential of a traditional cataloger, garnering as much as $50.00 per hour. The next phase in this community college certificate program is a 16 week course on metadata, and how many of the library techs in my class are going to get jobs allowing them to earn $75,000 per year? Although I have my MLS, I’m under-employed and battling people with much more experience in this job market, this certificate will make me more competitive. At the same time, I feel like the more tasks that I can usurp from a library technician, the bigger advantage I would be giving to a future employer, allowing the company to pay one decent salary and receive the expertise of 2-3 professionals. To make matters worse, doing the work of 2-3 professionals promises to be a trying endeavor, personally, on a daily basis. As hard as I try to find it, there is no singular pathway towards success in archives. My most recent experiences in non-profit organizations made the discussions of the cost and function of scanners and digital cameras almost comical. Forty thousand dollars for an overhead book scanner would never be considered at the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum. Overall the information about the digitization technology was useful as I would be able to provide organizations with a better idea of the feasibility of their projects within their budgets.
Tuesday, 10 September 2013
This week’s lecture launched right into the positives and negatives of digitization as described in our assigned readings. The two most compelling advantages of digitization for me were virtual re-unification, and using digitization to build community. Linda used the example of a website dedicated the reunification of the sculptures that were removed from the Parthenon and are currently housed at institutions in Paris, Heidelberg, Vienna, Munich, London, and Athens. I learned about the Elgin Marbles when I visited the British Museum in London back in 2009. This example is rather dramatic because of the antiquity of the items, and the politics of so many world powers, but I have also seen this story play out at The Mayme Clayton Library and Museum, as we share stewardship of Congresswoman Diane Watson’s papers with UCLA , California State Archives, and UC-San Francisco. I believe that strategic digitization and linking of our collections would pull more researcher traffic into MCLM and allow researchers to have a more complete idea of who the congresswoman was. When it comes to using digitization to build communities, I could think of a good number of examples from SAA’s annual meeting in New Orleans. I mentioned the MediaNOLA and African Americans in the Ozarks project in class, and Linda brought up the Pasadena Digital History Collaboration among others. The most unfortunate consequence of most digitization programs is the difficult opportunity cost that it presents. In other words, if an institution moves forward with funding and staffing for a digitization program, someone else’s program or position will be reduced or eliminated. This is when the strategic plan of the organization needs to be consulted and significant data analysis should be consulted to be as sure as possible that an implementation will provide enough benefits to outweigh the negative impact to other departments and staff members. I was happy to spend some time discussing this topic because we should not presume that all technology is good for an institution, user needs, budgetary resources, and staff member skill sets should all be considered before our new reputation as the “most digitally advanced library in the tri-state area”, for example.