INLS 740: Build a Personal Digital Library

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Digital libraries exist at the intersection of most, if not all of the topics under the broad umbrella of the Information and Library Science curriculum. There are plenty of theories in ILS that inform various aspects of the field... but in the end, this is a profession. The same is true of digital libraries: plenty of theory, but in the end, there's work to be done. In order for this course to have maximum impact, you must therefore actually get your hands dirty and get some experience in building and maintaining a digital library. Thus, this assignment.

This is the major assignment for this course, and it spans the entire summer session. You will build a personal digital library, from scratch, and it will be operational by the end of the semester, live online.

We create and acquire many of different types of documents as we go about our lives: photos, videos, letters, etc. Some of these are born-digital and some of these are physical objects.

The content in your personal DL should be (1) personal, and (2) physical. In other words, the content in your DL should have personal significance, and should not be born-digital. Why personal? Because we all have this stuff (Polaroids, VHS and cassette tapes, 35 mm films, letters from family and friends, artifacts from travel, etc.), and unless you have a lot more free time than I do, your collection of personal stuff is probably not fully digitized or well organized. (I might be willing to let you talk me into your DL being a project for your work, an organization you volunteer for, or some other non-personal setting. But bear in mind that that will change the nature of the project, by adding a set of priorities that is neither mine nor yours.) Why physical? Because physical objects require digitization, which presents some interesting problems for the purposes of this course.

There will be several deliverables for this project:

  1. Analyze available open source DL platforms, and decide which you want to use. (Why open source? Because I can't get you a subscription to use a proprietary system for personal use.)
  2. Install your DL application of choice. I will provide server space, if you need it. Feel free to use your own server space, if you have it.
  3. Identify standards and best practices, if any, that exist for your project (e.g., for image quality, metadata, etc.).
  4. Digitize some material. I recommend at least 50 items.
  5. Create metadata for your material. Create a preliminary data dictionary that will accommodate additional content as your collection grows.
  6. Create a collection in your DL application.
  7. Work on the information architecture of your collection.

No DL project I've ever known could have been completed in a single semester, let alone a 6-week short session, so what you produce by the end of the semester will be only a prototype DL. This prototype should be operational, however, and also expandable so that the DL can be built out in the future. For this DL to be expandable, you must develop processes for continuing the work, after the end of the semester.

At the end of the semester, you will produce a brief report on the work you have performed over the course of the semester, and plans for expanding and sustaining the DL into the future. This report should include details of your action items and your accomplishment (or not) of them, the decisions that you made and the pros and cons of those decisions, and suggestions for the future of work on the DL, if it were to be taken over by someone else (another family member, for example).

There are two important elements of a DL project that you will not implement for this assignment, simply because your DL will not be fully developed enough by the end of the summer session. In your report, however, you should include a discussion of:

  1. Preservation: What methods and actions would you recommend for ensuring that your DL and the content in it is preserved over the long-term? You should not engage in these preservation actions (6 weeks ≠ long term), but rather should articulate the preservation issues that are likely to arise, and how to mitigate them.
  2. Evaluation: What criteria and methodology would you recommend for evaluating the success of a personal DL project? You should not conduct an evaluation, but rather should articulate an evaluation plan that could be implemented when your project is further along or completed.

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