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6 Emerging Initiatives for Digital Collections

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I was asked to present a talk today for an internal group at the Library of Congress based on my recent experiences participating in the Top Tech Trends panel at the 2014 American Library Association Midwinter meeting.  It was suggested that I present a “Leslie-fied” version of the always-inspiring landscape talks that my colleague Cliff Lynch presents (seemingly without any effort).

Once I thought a bit about what I took away from my participation that the Top Tech Trends panel, and how I would limit the framework for the talk (emerging initiatives around digital collections), I chose my topics. And then because I needed to “Leslie-fy” it even more, I asked a ten year-old to help me illustrate my talk. Which she illustrated entirely with CC-licensed lolcats from Flickr. Here’s what I covered.

I Can Haz Informationz, some rights reserved by Flickr user sillygwailo
I Can Haz Informationz,by sillygwailo, on Flickr

Libraries Collect Everything.  Simply put, we collect all forms of physical and digital collections. And the Library of Congress has an enormous range of physical material, media types and digital file formats.  This is not exactly news, but it bears consideration when thinking about other topics.

Open Data/Big Data and Methods for Working With It.  Our digital collections are not just collections, they are data.  Funding mandates and public good mandates are requiring that more and more research data be made open. Libraries are creating and collecting big data that should be made open using the same mechanisms as research data, including exposing our collection metadata as Linked Open Data in XML or JSON formats and sharing the digitized media files. Researchers will want to select, use, combine and recombine our data with other cultural heritage data and social science or scientific data, and work with it in their own high capacity computing environments.

Open Everything.  Our collections are open access wherever they can be.  Our standards are openly available as linked open data.  We use open source software.  We release software we develop as open source. Our processes are as transparent as possible.

Authenticity and Provenance Matter. The use of digital forensics tools allow cultural heritage organizations to assure researchers that we have made authentic copies of unique media deposited in our collections, from word processed manuscripts to email, and that the files that we make available to them for research are as we received them, unchanged in our stewardship.

Everything Has a Social Media Component.  I am presented with the options to share and bookmark content or research on social media from almost every web page I visit. Digital collections are available not only through organizational websites, but through Flickr,  Pinterest, iTunes and YouTube. Library catalogs and websites allow us to Like and Share, Review and Recommend. Cultural heritage organizations crowdsource the transcription of their collections.

Inclusiveness Matters.  There is an increased awareness of issues of inclusiveness  in the Library IT community. Many major organizations, including the Digital Library Federation, the American Library Association and code4lib now have codes of conduct in place for events. Diversity and inclusiveness in hiring are absolutely a topic of discussion everywhere, and diversity goals are in place in most every organization.  As computing and software development is now a part of all functions of a library, it is everyone’s job to help raise awareness and participate and not just applaud this.


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