Posted on 22 May 2012.
By Dawn Bassett
During my two year library school program, we received a lot of excellent advice. We were told that the profession was going through profound changes, that we would end up being managers at some point in our career path, that the profession needed a greater presence in scholarly writing and communication so we should consider researching and publishing, we were advised that we might be called upon to plan and implement changes to both physical and digital library spaces, and we discovered that there are many different roles that we could engage in during the span of our careers. For example, we could be public, academic or special librarians publishers, editors, database managers, web designers, information architects, archivists, researchers, records managers, instructors, indexers, and many other things.
I thought “fantastic! That’s the career for me – bring it on!” I still love the idea that the skills of information science are applicable to a variety of different positions. What I wasn’t expecting was that I would be doing all of these things in the same job at the same time. But, this is what most information professionals do, particularly those who are part of a small team or are the lone professional in their organization.
Although there were many opportunities in library school to learn about electronic systems; how to search them, how to build them, how to manage them, one area that was not covered in my time was media management – and yet, my first professional job had the requirement that I would manage the images of the organization as well as performing almost all of the other roles mentioned in the previous paragraph. Yikes! At the time I had a limited of experience working with electronic documents and images mostly through online access to image sharing sites like Flickr. I quickly discovered that image management in a corporate environment is much more complex. Corporate digital assets often have copyright attached to them, and require a more rigorous application of metadata so that they can actually be located when they’re needed. In my current role, I have the same responsibility, and now I manage images, video, audio and electronic text.
There is a wealth of information available to information professionals who are working on digital asset management projects; much of it written by librarians and archivists in digital or virtual libraries. Not much has been written about how information professionals in special libraries might be able to manage this really very large and resource consuming responsibility while continuing to manage everything else they need to do at the same time. The purpose of this article is to boil this large amount of information down to some simple tips and provide some resources that might help you get started should you find yourself a DAM coordinator.
What is DAM anyways?
According to the National Initiative for a Networked Cultural Heritage (NINCH) DAM involves the following three steps:
Creating an efficient archive that can hold digital resources (such as images, audio and text) and the metadata that describe them;
- Implementing an infrastructure to ensure that these electronic data are managed and preserved in such a fashion that they will not become obsolete;
- Implementing search facilities that enable users to identify, locate, and retrieve a digital object.
There are many benefits of implementing DAM in your organization, including;
- The centralization of discovery and access
- The coordination of disparate projects as part of a coherent whole
- The centralization of authorization, security, and tracking systems
- The unification of organizational solutions to managing copyright
- The reduction of duplication of effort and resources
- The creation of more efficient process for the creators and users of media through structure and centralization of data
As information professionals, we are already trained in many of the skills required to manage media. We are educated in metadata rules and standards, cataloguing best practice, controlled vocabulary, thesaurus and index construction, analyzing and organizing data both in the present and with an eye on the future. While not all of us are trained in computer programming, we are trained in how to work collaboratively particularly with IT staff in how to develop information systems. This explains why our organizations turn to us for advice and leadership when considering managing digital assets. So, you may not have direct experience with a particular DAM system, you are still uniquely qualified to do work in this area, so if you’ve been asked to participate, collaborate or lead a DAM project, embrace it. It is a great learning experience and great way of reminding the people we work with of the added value that information professionals bring to their organizations.
Media management is big. It’s up there with records and information management as one of the most potentially resource-heavy responsibilities out there. It is a challenge for libraries with FTE’s who are specifically responsible for this. If, like most information professionals working in smaller libraries, this is something you do off the side of your desk, it can potentially be a years-long process that you will need to break into manageable chunks or risk being overwhelmed or just not getting anywhere with it.
So, before you do anything, plan to spend a good long time in the planning phase. Do this now. It will be a huge benefit to you later. Good project management skills, online resources and the experience of other professionals can really help with this.
While planning, consider the following tips:
1. Do some background research: Include traditional research avenues as well as talking to others who have either completed or are in the process of completing similar projects. Explore the websites of your local or provincial archives for courses or information. For example, the Archives Association of British Columbiahas an excellent resource called the AABC Archivists toolkit which includes a subsection on Automization and Digitization and often has excellent events and training options that are open to AABC members and non-members.
2. Become a metadata expert: Guess what? Even if reading the word metadata just now made you shudder, to some degree you are already skilled in the application of metadata through cataloguing, indexing, building taxonomies and working with databases systems. Be outspoken about your abilities in this are. If you are planning a DAM project, find a way to explain why good quality controlled metadata is important to building a useable DAM system. Explore a variety of ways to Market this idea to different types of people in your organization for example, your supervisor, the IT department, the communications department, your executive committee or your board. This will really help you when it comes to explaining why you can’t get 5000 images digitized and re-catalogued in 3 months or even a year without more resources.
3. Have a basic understanding of the tools available to you: For some, these tools will be proprietary systems purchased by their organizations before they were hired. These legacy systems will have a learning curve all to themselves. Spend some time finding out what your system does. There are also many applications out there for editing images, film and sound. While you may not directly be involved in the editing process, understanding how these systems interact or don’t interact with your DAM system is an important step in the planning process.
4. Do a collection assessment: In collection management courses we were taught how to manage our collections by formally assessing them. In my case, this has largely focused on print collections because of weeding for added shelf space. It is important to remember that images, film clips and sound clips are also collections that need regular assessment and review. This is also part of the information management cycle. You have to know what you have before you can figure out what to do with it. Depending on the size and variety of formats in your collection, this process itself could take several months, to a year or more to complete, but it is something that should be considered carefully. In the case of larger collections, doing this assessment process can help you determine what should needs to be taken care of first and will help you to develop a phased approach that is manageable. This is especially important if you are the only information professional in your organization or part of a small team.
5. Think about mobile technology and social media and how these technologies and associate applications might affect how your clients access and distribute media.
6. Identify your stakeholders and make them part of the process. Stakeholders might include:
- Content development or content management
- Graphic or multimedia design
- Executive or board members
- Information systems and/or technology
- Your staff
- Your clients
- Your supervisor
- The public
These stakeholders might have different needs and interests. Try to determine who will either need to approve metadata terms or even help enter them and work with them to come up with best practices at the beginning of the project. You might consider performing a needs assessment. What do your clients they use digital assets for? How would they search for it? What type of access do they need?
Don’t try to do it alone.
Make a list of people inside and outside your organization who can help you. My first experience with media management was at the Vancouver Aquarium – which has an absolutely amazing collection of images, and film going all the way back to the opening of the organization in the 1950’s. Although many attempts had been made to categorize and properly file the images, there was the usual amount of duplications of images in more formats than you could imagine and very little metadata so it was incredibly hard to find an image. 50+ years of employee and volunteer turnover meant that much of the knowledge of the subject, dates, names and authors of the images was long gone. Fortunately, there were some volunteers who were still around from the early days, so we were able to capitalize on their knowledge to get some of that missing information. Asking previous employees also proved to be helpful. In any case, this is not an activity that you can do alone. You need others in the organization to help you.
Develop a Digital Asset Management plan or strategy.
This is where you need to put on your project management hat. My preference is to create a rolling 3-5 year plan which can be updated annually to track your progress. Your digital asset management plan could include any or all of the following elements:
- Funding requirements – How much is this going to cost? Include short term and long term costs of equipment, licensing, and human resources.
- Human resource requirements – don’t forget to include resources that you might need from other departments
- Material selection – what types of materials are you going to digitize and what is the purpose of digitizing them? This will be based on the information you gathered during your collection assessment.
- Capture and management of text-based assets
- Capture and management of images
- Capture and management of audio and video
- Quality control and assurance
- Opportunities for collaboration within and outside of the organization – Can you partner with another organization to make the process beneficial to both?
- Access – how will your users access your information?
- Digital Asset Management system – file management, metadata development and management, workflow and policy tracking
- Documentation of policies and procedures
- Training plan
- Communications strategy
- Monitoring and renewal
While digital asset management is a large scale, long-term and resource-heavy process, information professionals come out of school with the necessary competencies to do this work whether we took courses that were specific to this or not. You already have the tools to do this work and your organization will likely look to you to do it. Be brave, be curious, don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues for advice, and give yourself time to plan properly. Remember that the system you choose to use is only as good as the metadata attached to items residing in it.
I hope that the materials in this section are as helpful to you as they have been to me. All web-based resources were last accessed on May 11, 2012
AIDA: a JISC Project assessing institutional digital assets. University of London Computer Centre, 2009.
Asiimwe, Edgar Napoleon. “Opinions of social web users on privacy and online DAM.” Journal of Digital Asset Management. 6.6, 2010: 312-318.
BCR’s CDP Digital Imaging Best Practices Version 2.0. BCR’s CDP Digital Imaging Best Practices Working Group, 2008.
Checklist for digitization projects. Digital Research Library; University of Pittsburgh, 2003.
Collection Digitsation Policy. National Library of Australia.
DAM Learning Center.
DAM 101. Digital Asset Management: Covering your assets. Digital Asset Management.org, 2012.
Folder structure tips. DAM Learning Centre, 2011.
Harvey, Ross. Digital Curation: A How-To-Do-IT Manual.Neal-Shuman, New York, 2010.
Hedden, Heather. The Accidental Taxonomist. Information Today Inc., 2010.
International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives.
Journal of Digital Asset Management. Unfortunately this journal ceased publication in 2010 – the good news is that most of the content is relevant and free.
NINCH. The NINCH Guide to Good Practice in the Digital Representation and Management of Cultural Heritage Materials. Humanities Advanced Technology and Information Institute,University ofGlasgow and the National Initiative for a Networked Cultural Heritage, 2003.
PADI : gateway to international digital preservation resources and to ICADS (IFLA-CDNL Alliance for Digital Strategies). National Library ofAustralia.
Slawsky, Donna. “Building a keyword library for description of visual assets: Thesaurus basics.” Journal of Digital Asset Management. 3.3 (2007): 130-138.
Smith, Edward. File naming best practices for digital asset management. DAMLearningCenter, 2011.
Tadic, Linda. “The importance of library science in implementing DAM systems.” Journal of Digital Asset Management. 1.4, 2005: 241-244.
U.S.National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Technical Guidelines for Digitizing Archival Materials for Electronic Access: Creation of Production Master Files – Raster Images. 2004.
Weber, Mary Beth and Fay Angela Austin. Describing electronic, digital, and other media using AACR2 and RDA: a how-to-do-it Manual and CD-ROM for librarians.Neal-Shuman,New York, 2011.
About the author: Dawn Bassett has had the pleasure of being a professional librarian since 2006 and has and has enjoyed working in libraries and information centres for 11 years. Dawn holds a Diploma in Theatre Stage Management from Studio 58, a BAHon. in English Literature from Simon Fraser University and an MLIS from the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies (SLAIS) at the University of British Columbia. She recently moved her family from Vancouver, BC to take the position of Coordinator of Library Services at Canadian Grain Commission. While not busy being a mom or writing, Dawn spends time volunteering on the board of the Manitoba Library Association and is currently the President-elect of the SLA Western Chapter.
You can find Dawn on the web at: email@example.com and LinkedIn