Texas Conference on Digital Libraries

The Texas Conference on Digital Libraries, held May 7-8, in Austin, TX, covered a variety of issues pertaining to digital repositories. Digital preservation, research data management and Digital Humanities were widely discussed.

Nancy McGovern, Head of Curation and Preservation Services, MIT Libraries, said the library community must create sustainable programs that will continue from one technological generation to the next; however, the organizational piece is often more challenging than the technological piece. Michele Kimpton, CEO, DuraSpace, stressed the importance of digital preservation to preserve our cultural heritage at a time when digital content, especially web pages, change frequently. As an example of the importance of digital preservation, she cited the recent 20th anniversary of the first web page, which was created on April 13, 1993. Because no one had backed up the site, it had to be manually recreated. “How do we ensure the digital content today will be there for future generations?” she asked. “Digital content needs to be actively managed and monitored over time or you risk that it will not be there when you try to access it.”

The Digital Preservation Network (DPN) was explained by Chris Jordan, UT-Austin, where UTA’s Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) is one of 57 organizational members who are cooperatively investing in long-term scalable digital preservation. DPN will establish a network of heterogeneous, interoperable, trustworthy, preservation repositories or nodes. TACC and the Texas Digital Library have established a partnership, in which TACC will provide storage for TDL via one of five initial nodes in DPN. TACC will also be heavily utilized by researchers, he said, because they are now required to have data management plans for federally funded research. TACC’s DPN network, which will be a dark archive for digital preservation and long-term storage, can be used by other institutions, as well, for a fee.

Michele Reilly, University of Houston Libraries, highlighted her organization’s creation of an online metadata generator for research data, which will be especially useful in light of federal funding agencies’ requirement for data sharing. “Researchers need to concentrate on their research, not on metadata, so we need to make the tool simple for them,” she said. Working with the technology department, the library has developed a simple scheme with five to ten fields that are based on what researchers typically use in their spreadsheets for that discipline, which are then mapped to Dublin Core. “It’s their taxonomy and they see what they expect to see. They don’t need to see Dublin Core or MODS. That is done later.” Researchers will be able to export their metadata files in web, PDF, XML, MODs, Dublin Core, and Web-based formats, which they then can then upload into repositories. The prototype tool will be ready by the end of summer with metadata schema for five disciplines.

Erin Hawkins, Library of Congress, discussed the World Digital Library (WDL), an international project led by the Library of Congress and supported by the Carnegie Foundation. The WDL provides free access to primary sources that document the histories and cultural achievements of all countries, available in seven languages. The WDL is comprised of 168 partners in 78 countries who sign the WDL charter, select content, send objects and metadata to the WDL team at Library of Congress, and participate on WDL committees and working groups. She noted that no Texas partners are involved in the project, which they would like to see. WDL works with translators to translate metadata and the web site into seven different languages. WDL provides the software platform and uploads the images and metadata into its repository. Currently, the site is most popular with Spanish-speaking users, who comprise 47 percent of all usage.

Eric Ames, Curator of Digital Collections, Baylor University Libraries, wanted to “go deeper with digital collections content” and, as a result, created a partnership with Baylor’s Museum Studies graduate program. He created and taught the MST 5327: Technology and Outreach in Museums seminar to 15 graduate students, who worked on a project to curate, digitize, describe, and promote materials relating to World War I. The final results were three digital exhibits with 79 items, fully digitized, cataloged and contextualized, as well as marketing plans. “This was our first entry into integrating projects into academia,” he said, which gave the Riley Digitization Center a higher profile with faculty on campus. Students — three of whom were on the panel — responded enthusiastically. They confirmed that the course helped them quell their fear of technology and enhance their job prospects.

Geneva Henry, Executive Director, Center for Digital Scholarship, described Rice University’s proactive efforts to Digital Humanities at Rice. She outlined a number of projects her unit has completed since 2000, thanks in part to two IMLS grants. More recently, the Center for Digital Scholarship ran a Digital Humanities boot camp, which was so popular they plan to offer a full Digital Humanities course in the fall. Feedback from post docs has been overwhelmingly positive. They say that the Digital Humanities training and boot camp gives them a clear advantage when applying for jobs. The faculty is receptive, said Henry, especially the Dean of Humanities. “Collaboration between the faculty and library is a win-win for everyone.”

Cindy Boeke, Digital Collections Developer
Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University