Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Librarians Have a Passion for Order

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Librarians Have a Passion for Order

Article excerpt

There is an old proverb that says, "Poets are born, not made." I've heard it paraphrased many times to refer to other professions, and I think it could apply to librarians as well. I take quite a bit of teasing from my husband and sons over alphabetizing the catalogs that come in the mail and the various road maps that we use when we travel. Just to be a scamp, my youngest son used to rearrange the catalogs so I would think I'd suffered a serious lapse when I'd find them slightly out of order. They just don't understand that if I organize them, then I can find the exact catalog or map I want when I need it.

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My colleagues, however, understand my passion for order. Librarians are experts in organizing materials so they can be retrieved when needed. Up until fairly recently, library collections have consisted of physical things--books; journals; audiovisual materials; and, in some libraries, collections of realia. Now, however, collections often include materials that cannot be placed on library shelves either because they are digitized versions of primary sources or because they exist only in electronic form and do not have physical counterparts. These digital materials need to be organized and managed just as physical materials do, not only so we can handle the details of licensing, subscriptions, rights management, and other acquisitions issues, but also so patrons can retrieve them just as easily as if they were housed on library shelves. There are some unique challenges that go along with managing digital content, but we can certainly rise to meet them if we use our well-honed reference skills to learn more about this topic.

Digital Asset Management Is Not Just for Libraries

I often begin researching my columns by doing related-terms searches on Google. One of the terms that I used this time was "digital assets management," which I found was an entry in the Google Directory--certainly proof that it is both timely and important. While librarians are interested in this topic, it also concerns industry professionals. As I continued my work on this column, I discovered several research projects, both in libraries and in industry, that were building solutions for efficient digital asset management.

One such project that I came across was the WGBH Digital Asset Management (DAM) Initiative. WGBH, the Boston affiliate of the Public Broadcasting Service, began this large-scale project with two goals: to create a functional digital library of its content and to build a DAM Reference Architecture to provide a hardware and software solution to manage this library. The home page for the project provides a link to information on the Sun Microsystems/WGBH iForce Center for Digital Asset Management, which claims to be the first such center to be established at a customer site. It serves as a worldwide reference for digital asset management as well as an executive briefing center and a demonstration site. Additional information is available, including a photo slideshow of the iForce opening.

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Another link on the project's home page provides further information on the project, including an FAQ document, a general overview of the project, a Reference Architecture diagram, and a video that demonstrates the architecture in action. The Pressroom link leads to press releases, promotional materials, white papers, industry articles, Webcasts, and photo galleries of the project. There is also a set of links to other resources, including an introduction to metadata and an XML tutorial.

DAM Research for Libraries

Another interesting project is the Digital Asset Management Initiative of the University of Michigan. The initiative's Digital Asset Management System (DAMS) Living Lab, developed through a partnership with IBM and Stellent, uses hardware and software to provide digital asset management in support of research and instruction on the campus. …

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