Importance of Consistency and Standards When Starting a Digital Collection

What do you think is the most important thing when the librarians are digitizing their collections? 

When creating a digital library collection, consistency within the collection is one of the most important things.  This is one of the reasons standards are created, to ensure consistency.   Therefore, when beginning a new digital collection it is important to set standards first, especially since each collection or project may require different standards.  If you start digitizing your collection without thinking about what formats to save material in, how many copies to keep, and what metadata standard or standards to use, your collection will be a mess and it may create more work for you down the road.  It is important to develop standards for your collection before you begin digitizing.  Keely talked about how she did this when she started working with the Wisconsin Uprising Archive.  She started collaborating with the group about setting up standards for the preservation and presentation of the material.  She also explained how it was difficult to keep things consistent, as they were all volunteers with no real library experience.  Keeping consistency was one of the reasons she chose to use Dublin Core for audio visual material instead of PB Core.  Overall, when starting a collection it is important to first create standards and think about how you want to present and preserve your collection as it will create less work in the end.

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6 responses to “Importance of Consistency and Standards When Starting a Digital Collection

  1. Enforcing the “standards” or the practice guideline is also challenging. It seems not hard to write a beautiful guideline in the first place. After some iterations, there could be different interpretations to the guideline, varying versions of guideline, or obsolete guideline without update. I would say this could happen in any professional field.

  2. I do think standards are important, but I think they need to be purpose/user-focused and set up to evolve, especially when it comes to digitization. Last semester, my group in Information Architecture chose to use Dublin Core for our metadata because less complicated and more consistent than using Schema (a microdata format). But I think for our users, Schema probably provided better information. If we had time, I’d have tried to figure out a way to make Schema work.

    To bring it back to your post: I think a good first step is to consider your goals and the user experience, and develop flexible standards that allow you to serve those two factors while also being able to grow and change with technology.

  3. Love this discussion, folks. You will start getting some experience with thinking about this more in practice in the coming week. Stay tuned!

  4. I couldn’t agree more on the importance of having standards upfront, before starting the project. Even working on our small digital library assignment I found I was not as organized as I expected and had to go back to update earlier entries. When building a digital library standards are vital. And I think a well-planned standard will have the expectation of making updates and changes along the way without too much trouble. Getting it perfect right out of the gate seems unlikely most of the time.

  5. Appreciate Keely’s mention that they took quite a bit of time reaching a decision regarding standards and procedures when they started the Wisconsin Uprising Archive. Having been involved with a number of long term collaborative projects, it’s not just the issues regarding consistency over time but the respect shown to every stakeholder that matters. If you envision one standard to meet the needs of one user group only to discover another groups need differ dramatically down the road you jeopardize offending those you hope to engage and involve in your archive/library/project. Good discussion here.

  6. Creating standards up front certainly helps get everyone on the same page, and it can help you make other decisions too. For format standards, for example, once you have them you have a better idea what kinds of hard drive situations you are looking at. On the other hand, I think with cataloging and tagging and everything else I’ve done , it is always easy to find things that require flexibility. Once your standards are created, I think it is important to have some back up plans.

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