Digital-Collections


1091map1As our regular readers know, the 1091 Project is a collaboration between Iowa State University Library and our conservation colleagues at Duke University Libraries. Well, this week, thanks to Kevin Driedger of the Library of Michigan, we have been participating in the 5 Days of Preservation project, a week-long collaboration among preservation professionals and institutions across the nation.  Kevin’s idea was simple but powerful: use social media to post a photo each day for five days of whatever preservation looks like for you that day.  Kevin then collected all those posted images in one place, the 5 Days of Preservation Tumblr blog. The collected photos showcase an impressive range of preservation activities that really illustrate the rich diversity of our  field.  So, this week, I encourage you not only to pop over to Preservation Underground for their 1091 post, but also to check out #5DaysOfPreservation, via Tumblr, Facebook, and/or Twitter. And kudos to Kevin for a fun and informative project!

Here is a quick recap of our ISU Library Conservation Lab posts for the week:

 

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MONDAY: Preservation looked like this humidified and flattened Depression-era letter.

 

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TUESDAY: Preservation looked like our student employee, Nicole, repairing books from the General Collection.

 

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WEDNESDAY: Preservation looked like professional photography lamps set up in front of our magnetic wall for imaging large-format architectural drawings.

 

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THURSDAY: Preservation looked like committee work for the AIC Sustainability Committee. Melissa and her fellow committee members are performing their annual link maintenance this month on the sustainability pages of the AIC Conservation Wiki.

 

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FRIDAY: Preservation looked like Preservation Assistant Mindy working on the departmental budget (a *very* important part of preservation indeed!)

Our Digital Collections are made available to the public through CONTENTdm in the basic ways that the software allows, without us having added any outside applications.  Up to now we’ve had very limited access to any staff with the skills and time to implement additional features to enhance the display of our digital collections.

We’ve been looking at other digital collections to see what functionality they have that we don’t but would like to have.  Here are a couple of good examples that I’ve found that I think would be good to have.

East Carolina University Digital Collections has an interactive map of their campus.  When you click on a building or area on the map, it opens up photographs of that building or area.  Or if you hover your mouse over a photograph, a symbol shows up on the map showing you where that photograph was taken.

We have many photographs of buildings and landscapes from across our campus throughout its history.  I think it would improve the presentation and discoverability of these photographs if we could connect them to geographic locations on a campus map.

A pioneer letter from the U of I "DIY History" transcription project.

A pioneer letter from the U of I “DIY History” transcription project.

The University of Iowa uses a crowd-sourcing website, DIY History, in order to gain the assistance of the public.  The library staff digitizes handwritten items, puts them online, and then allows the public to transcribe them.

There is a large amount of unique, handwritten materials in our Library Special Collections and University Archives that would be great to have digitized and put into our Digital Collections online.  However, until those items are transcribed, they cannot be full text searchable, and therefore the items and the information they contain are not as easily found by people searching online.  Since there is never enough staff or time to do everything we want to do, crowd-sourcing the time-consuming transcription work is something that we’ve been wanting to have for a long time.  Hopefully we will be able to get a web site like this developed soon, and then we can benefit from the time that the public has to transcribe our materials for us.

Our profession is obsessed with establishing priorities, and rightly so since there is always more in our collections to address than there is time and other resources.  We could make establishing priorities within preservation very simple–what is in the worst condition gets treated first.  Unfortunately, even within our own practices this is not realistic since that one item may take months of our time and all of our resources.  Add in other variables such as the monetary and intrinsic value of items or collections, availability of and demand for a book or its intellectual content, storage and use issues, and inherent vice, and we need to start having conversations with our curators.

These conversations always require some background and education including the fact that we are NOT asking them to tell us what condition their collections are in and what needs repair, or what treatment we should use, but rather what are their collection priorities.  We need them to participate in these conversations to help inform our treatment priorities and decision making, disaster salvage priorities, and digital preservation policies.  To guide the discussion we could consider using visual tools like a four-square matrix that compares impact with feasibility for preservation activities, or value with sensitivity of materials when dealing with disaster salvage.  It’s cost-benefit analysis.  Yes, these are over simplifications of the process, but are helpful tools to start the conversation.

Simple disaster salvage priority matrix comparing value to sensitivity of materials.

What about digital preservation priorities?  We obviously think about the risk of loss when considering prioritizing born digital vs. converted digital, value of content, and collection priorities, but again, how do you present this to curators?  Generally speaking, establishing digital preservation priorities is the same thought process for creating any preservation priority; the format should not drastically change the conversation.  Value and complexity of the digital object, and feasibility and impact of storing and managing objects are variables to consider.  It’s still cost-benefit analysis.  Most would agree that born digital is a higher priority than converted digital assuming the original is still available.

Last week I was at the Iowa Regents joint Library IT and Special Collections meeting where we were just beginning the conversation on collaborative digital preservation initiatives between the three Regent libraries (Iowa State, Northern Iowa, and University of Iowa).  Paul Soderdahl, Senior AUL over U Iowa Library IT and other stuff, drew a simple graph on the whiteboard comparing the deterioration of original analog materials over time to the improvements in digitizing technology and best practices.  The cost-benefit question became whether or not to put preservation resources into previously converted digital files that do not meet today’s best practices in terms of quality and file format.

Cost-benefit of preserving converted digital objects.

Or in keeping with the matrix approach:

Comparing level of deterioration of original to improved technology and standards over original scan of the original.

Comparing level of deterioration of original to improved technology and standards over the original scan.

Clearly we do not want to base our digital preservation practices on re-digitizing analog objects because of the costs involved and the wear and tear on the object, not to mention the fact that some of our collections are approaching their last possible use like magnetic media experiencing sticky shed.  But is it worth spending more resources on preserving files that do not meet our standards and could safely be re-digitized at higher specifications?  And if the answer is no, and knowing standards will evolve with technology, when is the answer yes?

How have you started conversations and educated your curators about establishing preservation priorities?  Do you have good working relationships with your curators and have you established preservation priorities with their input?

digital html

One of the things nearest and dearest to my heart in the design of web pages/sites is ADA compliance. Anyone who knows me knows that I endeavor to create our pages in a way that makes them accessible to everyone, no matter the disability. This is not an easy task to do for a website with an emphasis on images. In fact, you could almost say our website is the ultimate challenge for a web designer. Therefore, I can’t say that our webpage is the most accessible it can or should be, but I will attempt to tell you some of the things I employ to make it more manageable. There are many websites on the internet that describe these ideas better than I can, but the gist of those boils down to: alt tags for everything, and describe, describe, describe. That means every media item and plug-in needs concise alt tags which, when utilizing an assistive device, allow the user to understand what is being displayed. Also, I avoid creating blinking websites or including images and videos that contain vibrating/strobe/rapid blinking colors and/or images. (Note: any blinking light, such as a fluorescent that is about to go out in the ceiling at your work site or at home, can cause epileptic seizures.) Wave.webaim.org is a website I frequent in creating and maintaining my web pages. Put your URL into the “Web page address…” space and hit the —> key. What happens next is:

digital_wave

In the new page, you find that it defaults to a summary of the page. It breaks down into: Errors, Alerts, Features, Structural Elements, HTML5 and ARIA, and Contrast Errors. Not all the items listed here are necessarily bad, and every item is listed whether it has the specific detail or not. Also, on the page, notice the detail is color-coded and is highlighted in the display window.

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For example, clicking on the yellow box with underlined u, tells you that this alert is an indication that an underline text is present. There are three other link buttons listed under the summary button on the left: Details, Documentation, and Outline. Just below the URL form line and above the enclosed Summary/Detail/etc. box are three buttons: Styles, No Styles, and Contrast.

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When you click on the No Style button, what you see displayed is what an assistive device is going to see and read to the user. This is very helpful for me.

Did you notice the summary items are color-coded? Red=bad; green=good; the other colors are impartial. The Contrast button pertains to colors and text and is nice to show where issues might be for some persons. Again, you can see that the color-coding on contrast detail is red/white.

There are discrepancies between ADA guidelines about whether certain elements are needed. Notice the menu/navigation text. On some ADA sites, this would constitute an error due to the text size [e.g. small] and contrast (on wave.webaim.org, it is neither.) Most sites default to the more info the better, and bigger text. Also, I have no skip navigation link, which many ADA sites list as necessary.

This is an ongoing process. Basically, what I try to do is imagine myself with a disability and work from there. The simpler you design your website,  the more effectively you create an easily accessible web site, which makes for a more enjoyable experience for all persons viewing the pages, including non-disabled users. Therefore, using wave.webaim.org is a “win-win” for me.

Tomorrow is the last official day of National Preservation Week! If you missed the preservation webinars hosted by ALA-ALCTS this week, no need to fret: you can view the archived webinars on the ALA-ALCTS YouTube Channel, along with many other  webinars from past years.  This is a wonderful, free preservation resource available to anyone with an internet connection.  Preservation Week may be drawing to a close, but the ISU Library Preservation Department’s outreach mission continues year-round.  Contact us if you are in need of a preservation consultation.

preservationweeklogo2014

Preservation Week 2014: Free Webinars

Low-Cost Ways to Preserve Family Archives by Karen E. Brown

Preserving Historic Scrapbooks and Making New Ones That Last by Melissa Tedone

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