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 to maintain the seminar feel, so the classroom portion of the course is mostly devoted to discussions of DL-related topics and of the course project.

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 build a digital library, from scratch, and it will be operational by the end of the semester, 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, Greenstone, and Omeka. I will provide you with the appropriate login info in class.

Given the large enrollment for this course this semester, we will have 2 projects going simultaneously. The projects that you will have to choose from are:

The entire class will work on these projects. Each student will only work on one DL: choose which one sounds most interesting to you. We will have guest speakers visit class early in the semester, to pitch their project. Each DL project team will divide up into working groups of approximately 3-5 students (depending on course enrollment). The working groups will be the following:

  • Digitization
  • Metadata
  • Information architecture

Each working group will be in charge of one area of the DL development and will oversee all activities related to that area. Working groups will of course have to work together, some more closely than others (e.g., Digitization and Metadata will have to work closely together). Working groups should have meetings, agendas, action items, deadlines, etc. I encourage each working group to set up workspaces of their own in the Resources and Wiki areas of Sakai. I will create a Discussion forum for each group.

Students will work with two working groups for the duration of the semester.

No DL project I've ever known could have been completed in a single semester, 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 of your working groups, after the end of the semester.

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 four elements of a DL project that cut across all other areas of work: Standards and best practices, Preservation, Services, and Evaluation. Each working group's report should include a discussion of:

  1. 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. In a sense, for our purposes here, 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. 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. 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. A fifth element of a DL project that cuts across all other areas of work: 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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