Bill Yungclas


Our Digital Collections include a variety of different things.  The digital collection management system that we use is CONTENTdm hosted by OCLC.  We try to come up with the best way to present our various materials online so that they not only look good but are as useful as possible to people that want to access them.  Sometimes they are individual images but often they are large multipage items so we combine the digitized images together into a PDF.  One interesting difference between a single image and a PDF is that while an image will look the same to all the people who view our collections online, a PDF can look different depending on the web browser a person uses.

Different browsers include their own PDF plug-ins for viewing a PDF online.  Below are three images of the exact same item in our digital collections.

The first one is viewed in Internet Explorer
InternetExplorer

The second one is viewed in Firefox
Firefox

And the third one is viewed in Google Chrome
GoogleChrome

While the images look similar, all the tools or buttons for using the PDF look different and are located in different places along the top and sides of the image.  I’ve found out from first-hand experience that this can be a little confusing if two people are viewing the same thing but on different browsers and they’re conversing on the phone or through email about how to use the various tools.  While this isn’t really a big deal, it’s good to be aware that even though we strive for consistency in the look and usability of our digital items, we can’t control the differences that show up when using different web browsers.

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Until recently, I had never really given much thought to copyright.  There have been a wide variety of materials that I have been given to digitize and put online in our Digital Collections, however, somebody else had always decided before it came to me that we were allowed to put it online.  I was given whatever copyright statement was necessary for that material, I included it in the metadata for that digital collection, and that was all I needed to know.

Recently I have been asked to help out with our Digital Repository for a while.  Part of the work I’m doing includes checking some articles written by our faculty that have been published, to see if we are allowed to put them online in our Digital Repository.  Sometimes It’s easy to figure out and other times it takes some searching.  If it’s not obvious from looking at the published article online, I use the SHERPA/RoMEO website which shows if and how a publisher allows use of articles from their publications.  Sometimes they allow the original work to be put in an institutional repository like ours but they don’t allow us to use the published PDF version of the article from their web site.  Sometimes they allow us to use the article but they have an embargo period of anywhere from 6 to 48 months.  If so, we wait the specified amount of time after the original publication date before we put it online.

Some articles are published under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.  Works produced by employees of the U. S. Government as part of their official duties are not copyrighted within the U. S.  So if there is an article with a co-author who is an employee of the U.S. federal government, then we can use that as well.  I’m certainly no expert on the subject, but it has been an interesting introduction into the world of copyright.

The first agricultural engineering department in the world was started at Iowa State in 1905.  It’s now called the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering.  Jay Brownlee Davidson was a professor at Iowa State and is considered to be the “Father of Agricultural Engineering.”  Our archives has a lot of material from J.B. Davidson and we’ve digitized some of it to be available online in our Digital Collections:  http://www.add.lib.iastate.edu/preserv/cdm/agengineering.html

ag eng

Digital photographs were taken of entire scrapbooks that J.B. Davidson created from his trips to China and Europe.  In addition to the many photographs included in the scrapbooks, we also scanned many photographs from the early days of agricultural engineering at Iowa State.  We also have a link to our Digital Repository which has J.B. Davidson’s “Introducing Agricultural Engineering in China” from 1949.  With the variety of materials included in our Digital Collections we’ve tried to give people a look at some of the more visually interesting items in our collections and the Digital Repository includes the more scholarly works. This start could lead a curious researcher to find much more by visiting our archives.

It’s that time of year again, when warm spring weather signals the end of classes and brings on graduations.  This week is finals week here at Iowa State University and it will end with commencement ceremonies.  We scanned many of the earliest commencement programs from our archives and made them available online in our Digital Collections. http://cdm16001.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/search/collection/p16001coll27

Over the years, there are a variety of styles of printing and constructing the programs, with one even being held together with yarn.  Besides the programs, some include a list of commencement week activities.  It can be interesting to look back and see how things were done long ago compared to today.  You can see what kinds of music was played, the guest speakers and what they spoke about, and names of graduates and their areas of study.  One program from 1880, shown below, has an entry which reads “Shall We Encourage Irish Immigration” which is an interesting look at how some topics of popular concern have evolved over time.

Here is the front cover of a program from 140 years ago and a page of another program from 1880 tied with yarn.

cover

AdamsFamilyPapers

I continue to search digital collections of other university libraries to see the interesting things that they’re doing.  Each university has unique items to feature, so it doesn’t benefit every collection to be presented in the exact same way.  New and creative ways of displaying digital content at another institution might not necessarily be a good fit for our current collections, but they could help us think about possible projects to initiate in the future.

One feature I came across is only useful if you have multiple and different versions of a document.  The University of Maryland Digital Collections includes poems by the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven.  Each poem has between two and seven versions since she kept her original manuscripts as she worked from her first draft through to the final, finished poem.  They use a “Versioning Machine” which is an open source software that lets people view numbered line-by-line transcriptions of each version side-by-side for comparison.  http://www.lib.umd.edu/dcr/collections/EvFL-class/?pid=umd:2257

Besides being able to view digital images of the manuscripts, the transcriptions of those pages help a researcher see the step-by-step changes the author made.  It gives a person the ability to almost get inside the mind of the author from their first thoughts and throughout the creative process.  While this tool would not be useful for most collections, it’s a very good example of a creative way to provide specific viewing platforms for unique collections.

Image-01

In the Iowa State University Library Digital Collections, we mainly have collections of things that we have digitized here at the library, including photographs, letters, diaries and various documents.  However, born digital content, such as web pages, have also been brought together in other library digital collections.  We continue to look at these other opportunities for possible growth of our own.

The Library of Congress Digital Collections has web archiving.  Keeping old versions of web pages can be an often overlooked task.  When a web site is updated, how the old one looked could be lost forever unless there’s a policy and process in place to save the old one for historical reasons.  Sometimes there might be a temporary web page up for an anniversary or special event and when it’s over, if it’s not saved, that information could be lost.  Sometimes the content might not be that important, but someday people might want to see what the first web page of a university or department looked like to compare how things have changed.  The decisions of what to save, how to save it and make it available can be difficult and could impact every department on campus now that everybody seems to have their own web pages.

Columbia University Libraries Digital Collections includes a Human Rights Web Archive. None of the content of these web sites comes from the university.  Instead, they bring together web sites from all over the world to create a searchable collection available for research.  This extends the mission of the library to provide information by going beyond simply providing the information that exists at the institution. They search the online world instead, in order to provide various resources together in one place.

Preserving an historical record of web content could seem like a monumental task with the creation and changing of web content increasing exponentially all the time.  The sooner that policy and procedures everywhere are implemented to deal with this, the better.

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I continue to look at other university library digital collections to see what they are doing that we are not.  It can be informative to see what other people have decided is important enough to include on their websites.  Even if we don’t end up using these ideas on our own website, it’s good to know not only what other creators of digital collections are doing, but to find out what the users are seeing when they visit these websites and therefore the expectations that they might have when visiting digital collections such as ours.

One way of finding out what users want and expect is to ask them.  On the home page of the University of South Carolina Libraries Digital Collections, there is a link for a usability survey.   It is a brief survey that helps to find out who is using the digital collections (faculty, staff, undergraduates, grad students, or others); how easy the collections are to navigate; what kinds of things users are looking for; and whether users are able to find what they’re looking for.  This kind of information could be very useful in making decisions about the future of our digital collections.

Personally, I’m not a big user of social media, but it seems to have become a part of most people’s lives to some degree.  The home page of Duke University Libraries Digital Collections has a prominently featured area for both Twitter and Facebook.  This would encourage visitors to post comments on either of these social media outlets about what they’ve found and enjoyed in the digital collections.  Doing this would publicize the various contents of the digital collections to all the friends and followers of each user, which would in turn spread the word about the existence of the variety of things in the digital collections much more widely than any advertising the library could do otherwise.

Screen capture from the University of Washington University Libraries Digital Collections homepage: http://digitalcollections.lib.washington.edu/

Screen capture from the University of Washington University Libraries Digital Collections homepage.

There are always so many things that could be done, but there’s never enough time to do them all.  Having more staff and resources could help to do more, and having more funding would help to provide those additional staff and resources.  Every library and university, public or private, is always trying to raise money. Usually a person is more likely to donate their money if they know that it will go to something that is specifically important to them.  The home page of the University of Washington Libraries Digital Collections has a red star highlighting a link to “Support Digital Initiatives,  Make a Gift.”  The link takes you directly to the university foundation and the current needs in the library digital initiatives fund.   People who visit the digital collections and find things that interest them might be more likely to donate their money if they see that it could easily go directly to benefiting this interest of theirs and not just some general university fund.

Not every good idea for one library is necessarily a good fit for every other library.  However, noticing what others are doing and seeing what reactions they get can be a good way to start a conversation locally about what we might want to do in the future.

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