Planning the Digital Collections

Every Tuesday morning, I meet with the Associate Systems Librarian, Bonnie, and the Systems Manager, Geng, to go over our 20+ ongoing tech projects. This week, as for the past few months, my project of focus is the Digital Collections site, which I keep telling people is coming “soon.” It’s already live at a not-so-secret, but it’s buggy and we haven’t announced anything. There’s no hard/fast deadline, but I’d rather it launches before final exams. Otherwise we’d have to wait to announce it until the fall semester.

Special Collections booksFor the site, I’m also running a quick ‘n’ dirty Python script to collect all files associated with the 130+ items we’ve sent to the Internet Archive to be digitized, which are all books from our Special Collections. (While IA digitizes them, they don’t give us the files. It makes sense not to, since IA will be around for ages and we sent them the items specifically so they could digitize and store the digitized files on their servers — but it’s still nice to have our own copies, too.)

Reference deskThis is my current view. Not gorgeous, but important. I’m staffing the Reference Desk for an hour as students study for their midterms. I won’t get many reference requests at this hour of the day, but I can use the time to pursue other projects, like updating my Day of DH blog! And also compiling Reference Desk Log stats for my colleagues. (Pro tip: if you make your coworkers collect stats every time they do something, you better give them the pleasure of seeing aggregate stats presented in a beautiful narrative format.)

trial transcriptAlso, those cabinets you see on the left in the photo above? Full of microfilm. Mostly trial transcripts (left), some news reports, some books. Some of the microfilm we have has been digitized (amazing historical items = amazing time suck), but the vast majority of it is sitting in those green cabinets, maybe consulted once every few years by researchers. Which is not to say they’re not valuable — they are! I’m a firm believer in libraries keeping low-use, niche items that provide long-tail value to libraries, especially ours, which specializes in criminal justice materials.

Our task for the summer is to migrate those digitized trial transcripts to the Digital Collections site to provide a great browsing experience and consolidate our digital stuff in one place. We discussed in our morning meeting whether it makes more sense to spend money hiring a CS student to write a single-use migration script from our old custom system to a new and complex one over the course of a few weeks, orĀ  to coerce my colleagues to simply copy/paste metadata into new fields over the course of half an afternoon. Tedious and prone to error? A little. Time-efficient and easy? For sure. Sexy and brag-about-able? Not at all.