Who Do You Want to Be Today?

I lead a group that develops software for the management, preservation and delivery of digital collections.  In some organizations, digital preservation is part of the physical preservation unit.  In some organizations, software development is part of the systems office.  Or software development might be part of a central IT unit. I work with colleagues who specialize in storage sustainability and auditing.  And understanding digital format sustainability.  And selecting digital items for collections.  And digitizing items.  And developing file ingest procedures.  And actually cataloging and processing digital collections.

A small part of the Library of Congress

A small part of the Library of Congress

What is my/our identity?  And why is this weighing on my mind?  Because my organization, like all others, will inevitably change.

I have heard this from a number of other organizations.  What is the “best” organizational structure?  What is the scope of our work?  And, to me the most relevant, “What skills do our staff need?”  Do they need to have library degrees? Archives concentrations? Degrees in computer science or IT management? Or Ph.Ds?

They needs the skills to learn.  And handle change. And collaborate.

While that sounds a bit casual, we are all constantly learning about new things and changing what we do.  25 years ago, my work focused on digitization and metadata creation and normalization.  15 years ago, my work focused on repurposing digitized collections and course content for the web.  10 years ago my work focused on development of systems to make the management of digital collections easier.  Now my work focuses more on sustainability and preservation of born-digital content than of digitized collections.  And in all of those roles, I work with colleagues here and at other organizations that do every possible type of work in every possible organizational structure. And in every possible type of organization: libraries, archives, museums, not-for-profits, and commercial entities.

So, getting back to the question I asked myself, I need to worry less about my place in the world.  There is no best organizational structure. There is no one best degree.  I will never be part of one single group or do one single type of work.  None of us will.  But I will continue to develop my skills to meet new challenges and work in changing organizational contexts.  And I love the variety in my job.  That’s what I need to remember.


  1. Yvonne Friese
    August 29, 2012 at 3:47 am

    You were digitising material in 1988?
    Using it for Commodore 64 or Amiga 500 or possibly still an Atari?

    That sounds very cool!

    I did not even know libraries were already digitising back then and would like to learn more about it.

    Yvonne (Germany)

  2. Leslie Johnston
    August 29, 2012 at 11:40 am

    Yes, library and museums were digitizing in the 1980s. My first digitization project was in 1986, when I was working for a museum. We took digital images of museum objects using video capture onto half-inch tape, and mastered the files onto laser discs. We we using a mini-mainframe, not a desktop machine like an Amiga or Commodore. The collection database had a field where we recorded the laser disc image file location, so when you pulled up the record you could see the related images on a color monitor. We even had a early digital printer than made color prints the size of Polaroid photos!

    In 1988 I was working in a photo archive and we tested a variety of methods for digitizing photographs — and we we also using a mini mainframe. I personally didn’t work on a project where we were displaying images on PCs until the early 1990s, when I worked on my first project to digitize collections for a touchscreen kiosk in an exhibit in 1993.

    There is a very long history of automation and digitization in the library, archive, and museum community, and there is a need to make sure that history is not lost!

  3. Abbie Grotke
    August 29, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    I like to say that in the ever-changing work we do, the two most important skills are 1) flexibility and 2) a good sense of humor.

  4. Bill LeFurgy
    August 31, 2012 at 10:20 am

    Abbie, you are so right!

  5. Melissa Levine
    August 31, 2012 at 10:28 am

    Add 3) curiosity, 4) patience to Abbie’s comment!

  6. Yvonne Friese
    September 3, 2012 at 9:20 am

    Thank your for the insights, Leslie, and for the good advise, @Abbi, Bill & Melissa.
    It seems that I am having a hard time with the patience-part, while the rest is going okay :-)


Add a Comment

This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse. You are fully responsible for everything that you post. The content of all comments is released into the public domain unless clearly stated otherwise. The Library of Congress does not control the content posted. Nevertheless, the Library of Congress may monitor any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove content for any reason whatever, without consent. Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on the Library site. Read our Comment and Posting Policy.

Required fields are indicated with an * asterisk.