Tuesday, 10 September 2013

LIB 121: Week 2 (September 3, 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.    

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