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New strategies for Digital Content: 18 March 2011

Posted by benwynne2 on 23 March, 2011

I recently attended a one day conference organised by JISC on new strategies for creating digital content which was partly about presenting the outcomes of projects funded under JISC’s e-Content Programme (2009-2011).

How to ensure the sustainability and impact of digitisation initiatives were two major themes of the day.

Nancy Moran of Ithaka provided an update on their research into the sustainability of digitisation projects. This illustrated the continuing importance of the host organisation but also of developing different sources of income. One example she highlighted was the Encylopaedia of Philosophy at Stanford University which has been raising funds – largely from libraries – to build up an endowment to assure its long term future. In the meantime, Stanford has been filling the funding gap.

Alastair Dunning of JISC and David Hunter of the National Library of Scotland highlighted the importance of making your ‘content’ findable and visibile from as many different places as possible in order to increase its impact, with Flickr and the Internet Archive cited as examples. However, you do need to ensure that your institutional logo or other form of attribution is clearly visible.

‘Joining up content’ was also presented as a key aspect of increasing the visibility and impact of digital collections i.e. finding ways for related content to be found and brought together.

This brought us to a particularly interesting presentation by Andy McGregor of JISC. Andy has been closely involved with the ‘Resource Discovery Task Force’ (RDTF) over the last year and more – an intiative of JISC and RLUK which has been exploring what sort of resource discovery tools the UK libraries, musuems and archives sector needs for the future.

While the Task Force did not agree on what sort of resource discovery services would be needed for the future, there was clear agreement on the need to ‘aggregate’ metadata from different sources and to make it available in such a way that others could create services using it. This is seen as providing future benefits in terms of search, enriching metadata, collection management, mashups and visualisations and shared cataloguing to name a few.

JISC is funding exploratory work on use of open, reusable data as part of realising this vision and will also be making guidance available to metadata creators on how to make their data as reusable as possible (while recognising that it is not always appropriate to make all data open and reusable). One initiative which JISC is funding in this context is the use of data derived from COPAC to inform decision making on collection management (on de-duplication of monographs, for example) by the White Rose university Consortium of Leeds, Sheffield and York. The intention is also to make metadata aggregations available for Web developers to use. The use of ‘linked data’ is very much part of this intiative and thinking. One practical example of linked data in action which Andy cited is the BBC Wildlife Finder site which makes its data available in a number of different formats.

Further information is available on the Resource Discovery Task Force blog and an RDTF area on the MIMAS web site.

Against this background, my short presentation on future challenges for us at Leicester in sustaining our digitisation intiatives seemed at one level rather pedestrian but on another very much in line with the main themes of the day. The challenges were: strategy (being clear why we are doing it and for what benefit), money (how are we going to pay for it) and people (who is going to do it and how do we develop and sustain the necessary skills and expertise). Our JISC funded project to create the My Leicestershire History archive has given us a very good base from which to build (having previously not undertaken significant digitisation work for a number of years). The immediate response to these big challenges is short term and pragmatic – redeploying some existing staff time to this area of work and increasing the visibility of what we have done as much within our university as outside – in order to retain a capability from which we can build in the future.

The day concluded with some brief information about a likely forthcoming JISC Call (possibly in April) for a number of large digitisation projects – with key issues being embedding, partnerships and innovation. So, very much furthering some of the themes from the day …

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