INLS 740: Building a Digital Library

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This course started out life as a seminar, back in 2002 when it was first added to the curriculum. The course has grown in popularity so that now enrollment is too large for it to be a seminar. However, I have tried to maintain a seminar feel, so a significant portion of our class time is devoted to discussions of DL-related topics generally and of the course project specifically.

It is not enough for a course like this to simply be a discussion, however; you must actually get your hands dirty and get some experience in building and maintaining digital libraries. Thus, this assignment.

This is the major assignment for this course, and it spans the entire semester. You will contribute to an existing digital collection by adding new digital items. You will be involved in all stages of the lifecycle of these items. The items you create will become part of this digital collection, live online. You will be building this DL for a client. Think of the class as a consulting firm.

Not only will you build a DL, however, but you will build it in multiple DL platforms. We have access to the following platforms for your use: CONTENTdm, DSpace, and Omeka. I will provide you with the appropriate login info in class.

We will be working with the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center for our project. The NCDHC is a Service Hub of the Digital Public Library of America, and the collection we work on for the NCDHC will become part of the DPLA's collection. A few possible collections that we might work on include:

  • African American higher education in North Carolina. North Carolina has the first HBCU in the country (Shaw Univ., est. 1865) and several of these schools were active in 1960s civil rights protests. The NCDHC has digitized yearbooks for nine HBCUs and student newspapers for a few.
  • Civic and social clubs in the 1950s. The NCDHC has digitized a lot of scrapbooks from women's clubs and Jaycee groups around North Carolina, primarily from the 1950s.
  • Runaway slave and slave sale ads in newspapers. UNC-Greensboro has a digital project of runaway slave ads from North Carolina newspapers and the NCDHC has digitized a handful of Civil War and antebellum era newspapers that have ads for slave auctions and sales.

At the end of the semester, working groups will produce a brief report on the work they have performed over the course of the semester, and plans for expanding and sustaining their part of the DL into the future. This report should include details of your group's action items and your accomplishment (or not) of them, the decisions that your group made and the pros and cons of those decisions, suggestions for future students or librarians to pick up your work where you leave it off, etc.

There are 5 elements of a DL project that cut across all other areas of work. Each working group's report should include a discussion of the following:

  1. Standards and best practices: The standards and best practices, if any, that exist in the group's scope of work (e.g., for image quality, metadata, etc.). Is the group recommending that the DL and the management of the project adhere to these? Why or why not? What might be gained or lost either way (e.g., interoperability, user contributions, etc.)?
  2. Preservation: In a sense, for the purposes of our project, preservation is a conceptual subset of standards and best practices. Identify the standards and best practices, if any, for preservation of digital content. Groups will not actually do the work involved in preservation, but should articulate a preservation plan that would ensure the viability and accessibility of materials, say, 25 years into the future.
  3. Services: The services that they implemented, or services that would be desirable to implement in the future. This may include either or both human-mediated services (e.g., reference, social Q&A, scan-on-demand, etc.) and automated services (e.g., advanced information retrieval tools, usage dashboards, etc.).
  4. Evaluation: The criteria and methodology for evaluating the success of their component the DL project. Groups do not need to actually conduct an evaluation, but rather should articulate an evaluation plan that could be implemented when the DL project is further along or completed.
  5. Project management: Each working group will elect or appoint one representative to serve on a Project management group. The purpose of the Project management group is to keep track of the big picture of the project, and to ensure communication and coordination across all of the other groups. The Project management group will be the point of contact between the class and the client, and the point of contact between working groups.

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