Exploiting Synergies: Among Digital Repositories, Special Collections, and Online Communnity by ProQuest


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14 www.onlinemag.net
          here was a time, just a few short years ago,        ciplinary in scope, and it encompasses a social record
          when the Library of Congress and a couple of        of conflict, economic growth, and civic involvement.
          other leading research libraries were the              This collection in particular presented an enticing
principal developers of high-quality digital collec-          tool for researchers—if it could go online. California’s
tions. Not now. Today, enterprising academic organi-          growth as a state was deeply influenced by social
zations, museums, and think tanks can take advan-             movements, immigration on a vast scale, and the rapid
tage of powerful open source development tools and            growth of big business. During the early days of the
get started digitizing, albeit on a smaller scale. Activity   forty-niners and the Barbary Coast, San Francisco was
has grown, but one thing remains constant: Historical         a magnet for utopian thinkers and nonconformists of
collections can still benefit from a big burst of “Web        every political stripe. The city’s social life was fertile
Wow!” when they appear online—at least among the              ground for labor activism, and organized labor gained
scholars and experts who need them.                           significant political power. That power persisted into
   Digital collections gain vast new readerships when         the 20th century. The 1930s longshore worker riots on
they appear online in structured and searchable for-          the San Francisco docks, the postwar prosperity that
mats. The fact that the excitement factor remains high        spawned the “California Dream,” the emergence of a
spells opportunity for the profession. At the same            global work force, and the advent of plant closures—all
time, the explosion of social networking software such        of these events and trends are recorded in the
as blogs, wikis, and community sites (think MySpace,          California Labor Federation’s proceedings.
Facebook, or Bebo) now enables repository managers               As an online repository, this collection would
to merge static repositories with Web 2.0 applications.       enable scholars to trace issues, legislative mandates,
When the static web meets the “social” web, new syn-          social movements, and speeches over the full span of
ergies emerge. Repositories can now go interactive,           a century. An easily searchable chronological span of
and they’re earning a place in the Web 2.0 universe.          digital files would allow crucial new insights to come
   The University of California–Berkeley’s Institute for      into focus. One Berkeley labor economist foretold
Research on Labor and Employment Library (IRLE)               that demand for the online repository would make
received a firsthand chance to take the digital dive with     IRLE’s project “a slam-dunk” from a funding perspec-
some historical collections as part of a sponsored            tive. He was right: IRLE’s proposal prevailed in direct
research project (www.irle.berkeley.edu/library). The         competition with the research faculty of the entire
results were not only surprising but also empowering          University of California system. UC LERF funded IRLE
from a public relations perspective. IRLE’s experience        in two phases, which totaled $62,836.
provides a fresh look not only at the technical aspects of
repository building but also at the community-building        THE OPEN SOURCE SOLUTION
synergy that is increasingly affecting repository design.        Being at Berkeley, our information infrastructure
                                                              conforms to the Metadata Enhanced Transmission
COLLECTIONS ARE POWERFUL                                      Standard (METS). When a digital file—a book, image,
  Archivists and scholars have long traveled to dis-          or sound recording—is transformed into a “METS
tant places to read obscure publications, but when a          object,” it gains new versatility and persistence. METS
collection appears full-blown on the web, the travel          is like the Dublin Core Metadata Standard on
and the struggle for access shrinks. Extending web            steroi
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