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Special collections and digital libraries: a new role for consortia? Dale Flecker Harvard University Library.

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Presentation on theme: "Special collections and digital libraries: a new role for consortia? Dale Flecker Harvard University Library."— Presentation transcript:

1 Special collections and digital libraries: a new role for consortia? Dale Flecker Harvard University Library

2 Intersection *Development of library technology * Purpose of consortia * Nature of special collections

3 1. Development of library technology

4 Development of library technology Three phases: 1.Processing support 2.Intellectual access 3. Digital collections

5 Library technology – Phase one Automation of business records and processes Library “back room” –acquisitions, circulation, serial records, etc Stand-alone systems Locally developed 1960 – 1970’s

6 Library technology – Phase two Technology for information retrieval OPAC – public access to library systems “Integrated library systems” –both processing and public catalog –based on common bibliographic record Vendor systems become dominant Consortial shared systems become common 1980 – 1990’s

7 Library technology – Phase three Digital collections –the “digital library ” Two sources –“born digital” –“reborn digital” from existing collections Shared licensing, portals become common Mid-1990’s… –in its infancy

8 2. Purposes of consortia

9 Sharing!! Collections (avoiding materials duplication, richer resources) Infrastructure (avoiding hardware, software, and facilities duplication) Expertise (avoiding staff duplication)

10 Today’s consortia Two core purposes –Sharing of collections initially traditional book and serial collections increasingly licensed resources –Sharing of integrated library systems shared record efficiency, union catalog, shared hardware, software, and staff

11 3. Nature of special collections

12 Attributes of special collections Unique or rare materials Related materials widely dispersed Materials highly diverse Metadata practices not standardized

13 Implications for consortia Unique materials: no economy in sharing records or avoiding duplicate purchases

14 Implications for consortia Related materials widely dispersed : geographically-based union catalogs are less compelling

15 Implications for consortia Materials highly diverse: union catalogs problematic

16 Implications for consortia Metadata practices not standardized : sharing descriptive metadata difficult

17 Digital library important for special collections A means of sharing unique materials Physically dispersed collection can be “virtually” united Permits browsing of difficult to describe materials (e. g., visual collections) Digitization creating ferment and development in descriptive metadata

18 Digital library important for special collections Born digital materials are coming… the archive of a 21st Century Berenson will include , digital images, and databases!

19 Potentially a key role for consortia in building digital libraries… because sharing again can lower costs and increase quality A new role?

20 Danger in naiveté Digitizing is easy! but digitizing well is hard! Putting digital things on the web is easy! but preserving them is hard! Building a little database for access is easy! but who will find that database?

21 Digital libraries are hard! Expertise is critical, expensive, and hard to find! Sharing expertise makes sense…

22 Expertise – digital object formats Understanding digital formats the KEY to most digital library work Formats vary significantly in “preserve- ability” Digitizing costs sensitive to format used Formats can be applied well or poorly Constant technological change threatens all formats

23 Expertise -- digitizing Many ways to digitize the same object –Vary in quality –Vary in functions supported –Vary in cost (both one-time and on-going) –Vary in preserve-ability Understanding equipment options important Understanding workflows important

24 Expertise – metadata of all kinds Descriptive/access metadata –differing conventions in different domains –integration with the larger environment –conflicting developments, much change Technical metadata –for rendering –for preservation

25 Expertise – metadata of all kinds Administrative metadata –management –protecting assets Structural metadata –growing as objects become more complex

26 Expertise -- preservation Digital materials much more fragile than traditional collection Preservation poorly understood, few models available –Developing rapidly

27 Digital library – sharing infrastructure Infrastructure of two types: * systems * services

28 Shared infrastructure -- digitizing Digitizing laboratory with –equipment –expertise –established workflow Reduced cost, better product

29 Shared infrastructure -- repository Repository provides –object storage, management, protection, access –persistent identifiers –preservation Shared hardware, software, management

30 Shared infrastructure – metadata creation Digital library metadata more diverse, complex than traditional library cataloging Few libraries can afford to have expertise in all metadata domains –trade-off between options –requires both expertise and technical facilities

31 Summary – consortia and special collections For basic library collections –Share collections –Share expertise –Share infrastructure For special collections/digital libraries –Shared collections less compelling –Need for expertise much greater –Need for infrastructure as great

32 This will be hard… Skilled staff are scarce There are few turn-key digital library systems Money is scarce in general, scarcer for special collections We need a lot of development in standards, good practices, etc….

33 But the promise is ENORMOUS!


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