[live blog] #DHOxSS, Christine Madsen and Matthew McGrattan, Digital Library Technologies and Best Practice

[live notes, so excuse the errors, omissions and personal perspective]

Christine Madsen, Part 1: Deconstructing Digital Libraries; or: why you should work with your library! (Bodleian Digital Library Systems & Services)

Talk about what we are doing but also libraries, and how work in libraries slightly different to the academic perspective on digital projects.

Bodleian Digital Library Systems and Sercices provide electronic core to all Oxford libraries. 15 years of experience digitising collections; 15-20 ongoing projects at present. But not all traditional digitisation: Early Modern Letters Online a flagship project around metadata. 26k comments: real success there.

“Our work in the Digital Humanities has changed the way I think about libraries and what they do”

So what do libraries do?

We describe salient features of content > what has changed is a move to toward that content as data.

We store artefacts of intellectual discourse

Libraries support knowledge creation > back when we built libraries that looked like the Bod we knew how to do this. Position libraries as central to learning: eg when Thomas Bodley gave his collection of books (and some money) he was heralded as having saved learning. Now… 0100101010101 … sorting information into buckets. We are here because of Father Busa, but while it took him 56 years we expect an instant output. Slow research no longer acceptable.

Libraries are open > but a push to even greater opennnes right now, and openness is tied in with collaboration. And collaborative standards

Libraries produce outputs > and what they are is changing.

Libraries evolve > Libraries do not have a great history of making rapid change – like to think long and hard – but speed now important

Libraries provide longevity

How to stay relevant? Question of how to maintain our role as custodians in a changing environment

  • working with academics, getting involved in projects as early as possible, be open on issues, visible on cost.
  • hosting vs archiving
  • pay attention to users as well as project requirements.

Seperate content from interface. Content is to be saved, interface is not built forever. Interfaces ephemeral. Content sits on top of metadata and infrastructure. So idea at Bod is to ‘shake out content’ from digital projects where possible [I think this is a really important perspective on digital projects]

Matthew McGrattan, Part 2: Building a digital collection (Digitisation Service Manager & Imaging Specialist)

The Digital Turn… access, opportunities, dissemination.

The Basics of starting a digital project… What do you have? Who is going to use it? How are you going to build it?

What Content, plus what is going to sit on, around and below the content

Who Specialists? Technical terminology may be off-putting depending on target audience. But of course also non-specialists > striking the right balance. Machines: machine readability important.

How Driven by what and who. Example of questions can be seen when we think about digitising images.

  • What format – lossy or lossless?
  • OCR needs 300pi or above.
  • What is preservable? Future-proofing and format integrity.
  • Metadata: stored within the image or alongside?
  • Display: flat, panning/zooming, comparative interface, image manipulation.

A warning about standards! Standards proliferation doesn’t usually give you anything extra, just more standards. And yet we do want to avoid silos, so unification of standards is worth the effort – Digital.Bodleian project. Used a stack of services from infrastructure to user interface: combintion of standard services and developed tools.


Departments territorial, libraries neutral: how does this work at the Bod? We can’t tell anyone to do anything, so we create tools/environment for collaboration. We work on lots of these projects, individual scholars may be working on one for the first time.


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