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					PAGE 14                                            VIRGINIA LIBRARIES                            OCTOBER–DECEMBER 2010

             Building Digital Archives
          Collections at Northern Virginia
                Community College
                                            by David Anderson

W              e might not think of
               community colleges
               in Virginia as insti-
tutions with deep historical roots.
The Virginia Assembly established
                                        video, and audio. They might also
                                        include born-digital items. Digi-
                                        tal collections aim to extend the
                                        reach of these items beyond their
                                        permanent homes in an archive to
                                                                                searchable and browsable on the
                                                                                   Given the limitations of our
                                                                                staff, it was important to start
                                                                                with a project modest in scope.
the Virginia Community College          anyone with Internet access. Digi-      Digital collections can start small.
System (VCCS) in 1966 in order to       tal collections make it possible to     We identified the most appealing
fill the need for two-year college      display items online that might         items in our archives — student
programs in the state. The fiftieth     not get as much exposure in their       newspapers, Campus Council min-
anniversary of VCCS will arrive in                                              utes, commencement programs,
2016, and that event suggests an                                                and photographs. These core items
opportunity to look back at the                                                 made up our initial collections.
history of community colleges in            Done well, a digital                The student newspapers reported
Virginia. At the Alexandria Cam-                                                on events throughout the college’s
pus of Northern Virginia Com-              collection should tell               history and in some cases remain
munity College, we have already                                                 the only record of those events.
begun this process by developing         the story of thematically              Campus Council minutes describe
a digital collection to house and       similar cultural objects….              the nuts-and-bolts decision-mak-
display historical documents from                                               ing processes that contributed to
our campus archives. We have                                                    the development of the Alexandria
identified student publications,                                                Campus of NOVA. Commence-
meeting minutes, event programs,        analog formats. Done well, a digi-      ment programs include the names
and photographs as candidates for       tal collection should tell the story    of graduates and their programs
digitization.                           of thematically similar cultural        as well as the names of speakers.
    In “Defining Collections in         objects to an audience.                 Photographs of people and origi-
Distributed Digital Libraries,” Carl       It is my hope that NOVA’s expe-      nal building and site plans for the
Lagoze and David Fielding define        rience will enlighten and guide         Alexandria Campus add depth
a collection as a “set of criteria      other similar institutions in creat-    and color to the collections. These
for selecting resources from the        ing their own digital collections.      items have comprised the core col-
broader information space.”1 Essen-     While institutions with valuable        lection we have built to show the
tially, collections are sets of items   treasures in their collections might    capabilities of digital collections
that meet some specific criteria of     have a digital collections librar-      on the Web.
provenance and pertinence. They         ian or digital initiatives librarian,      There are some preliminary
are commonly found in libraries,        no one involved in this project at      steps that institutions should take
archives, museums, and other cul-       NOVA had any prior experience
tural institutions. Digital collec-     with digital collections. Despite
tions take the concept and apply        that, we learned by trial and error     David Anderson manages the Arling-
it to images of items on the Web.       and have managed to establish an        ton Center Library of Northern Virginia
Those items might include printed       effective workflow for digitizing       Community College. He can be con-
text documents, printed images,         our documents and making them           tacted at
OCTOBER–DECEMBER 2010                             VIRGINIA LIBRARIES   PAGE 15

     Digitally archived materials include these
     early sketches of the Alexandria Campus
     of Northern Virginia Community College.

     Newspapers published by students at the
     Alexandria Campus of Northern Virginia
     Community College — October 24, 1975,
     and November 11, 1985.
PAGE 16                                             VIRGINIA LIBRARIES                            OCTOBER–DECEMBER 2010

before engaging in a digitization        teers, an intern, and students to           lections software, CONTENTdm,
project for digital collections.         work on the digitization. We tried          allows us to create metadata tem-
Through trial and error, we learned      to make the workflow simple so that         plates that conform to Dublin
a few:                                   almost anyone could contribute to           Core and other metadata stan-
•	 Identifying items. What should        the scanning of items. For storage,         dards. Fields that vary from item
   be included?                          we used a networked server to store         to item can then be filled in.
•	 Software. What kind of digital        large files as well as a portable hard   •	 Upload to the Web. CON-
   collections software will be used     drive to transfer them from one             TENTdm allows us to monitor
   to display items on the Web, and      computer to another without tax-            files uploaded to the Web and
   what kinds of capabilities should     ing the network’s resources. We             approve them once they are
   it have? What kind of image pro-      are still determining what level of         uploaded.
   cessing software is necessary?        quality of archival digital files we     •	 Build menus. CONTENTdm
•	 Hardware. Should digitization         will be able to keep.                       allows users to do searches for
   be done in-house or outsourced?           As we researched this project,          items, and we have built custom
   What kind of scanners should be       we saw that a robust workflow is            menus to browse to collections
   purchased? How many comput-           essential to making sure that digi-         of items as well.
   ers and monitors will be needed       tization, metadata creation, and             Some challenges we have faced
   for the project?                      the building of a website are as         include finding networked server
•	 Staff. How can this be done           smooth as possible. We realized          space to store files, finding the
   without additional staff funding      the importance of tracking each          most time-efficient ways to scan
   or new positions?                     item through each step in the pro-       and process images, and deter-
•	 Storage. Files will need to be        cess — removal from the archives,        mining best practices for meta-
   stored on some kind of server or      digitization, moving digital files,      data within the context of our
   other storage device. Digital files   processing digital files, adding         digital collections software. CON-
   can be quite large. What quality      metadata to those files, upload-         TENTdm is widely employed for
   of archival digital files should be   ing them to the Web, and finally         digital collections, and the option
   kept?                                 preserving them in some form on          to use it for free was an attractive
•	 Metadata. How much metadata           a server. Establishing a clear work-     one; but it required some time for
   should be recorded for each           flow ensures that items are not          development and troubleshooting.
   item, and how detailed should         scanned or processed twice and           We worked with CONTENTdm’s
   that metadata be?                     allows staff to pick up right where      customer service to deal with prob-
•	 Intellectual property and pri-        they left off regardless of where        lems as they arose.
   vacy. Is it legal to display items    they are in the workflow process.            We are continuing to work to
   on the Web? Does posting items            A basic workflow for digital         achieve our goal of building a
   like photographs on the Web           collections has the following            stable, extensible, scalable, search-
   violate anyone’s privacy?             components:                              able, browsable digital collection
    We identified items to be            •	 Scanning items. A copy stand or       that can serve to capture NOVA’s
scanned that contributed to build-          large flatbed scanner works well.     history for years to come. We hope
ing a historical picture of North-       •	 File management and storage           that our model will inspire other
ern Virginia Community College.             space. Once files are scanned,        community colleges to build their
We reviewed a number of digital             it is important that they have        own digital collections.
collections software options, com-          a place to be stored. Scans of
paring costs, ease of use, search           images and documents can take
features, and development time,             a great deal of space.
and we selected CONTENTdm                •	 Image processing. Files directly      1. Carl Lagoze and David Fielding,
from OCLC. Based on our current             from the scanner will probably        “Defining Collections in Distrib-
subscriptions with OCLC, we were            require straightening, cropping,      uted Digital Libraries,” D-Lib Maga-
able to use CONTENTdm to display            conversion to PDF or other file       zine 4 (November 1998), http://
up to 1,000 items or 10 GB of items         formats, and optical character
on the Web for free. We purchased           recognition (OCR) processing          lagoze/11lagoze.html. VL
a copy stand and a large flatbed            that allows for full-text search-
scanner to digitize items. We were          ing of items.
able to use existing computers and       •	 Metadata creation. Once files
monitors to process images. For             are ready to go on the Web, they
staffing, we relied on staff volun-         need metadata. Our digital col-

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