There was a time when the Library of Congress and a couple of other leading research libraries were the principal developers of high-quality digital collections. Not now. Today, enterprising academic organizations, museums, and think tanks can take advantage of powerful open source development tools and get started digitizing. Digital collections gain vast new readerships when they appear online in structured and searchable formats. The fact that the excitement factor remains high spells opportunity for the profession. At the same time, the explosion of social networking software now enables repository managers to merge static repositories with Web 2.0 applications. Libraries have come a long way toward integrating special collections into their greater information ecologies of digital collections, web resources, and online conversations. Digital repositories now provide enterprising curators with another chance to get out in front of the curve. In order to be effective, librarians must focus not only on new technology, but they must also rediscover the potential for synergy that lies hidden in their special collections.
Web WOW! So b we cia tic lw S ta eb 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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