Over the past few months, the development work on the new Digital Commonwealth repository at the Boston Public Library has focused on functionality for ingesting metadata records via the Open Access Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH). This functionality enables Digital Commonwealth to include metadata created by institutions around the state in the central search interface, with links that point back to the original item hosted by the provider. (Digital Commonwealth currently harvests records from ten institutions and consortia, including the State Library of Massachusetts, NOBLE, SAILS, and C/W MARS to name a few.)

BPL development staff have been working closely with each OAI provider to tailor the ingest process to their preferred metadata format (Dublin Core, PBcore, MODS, etc.) as well as the system used by each institution to provide the records (CONTENTdm, Omeka, etc.) The crosswalking process, which converts the incoming metadata records into MODS, also involves a number of data standardization routines, including the transformation of date data into a facet-able and sortable date format based on W3C Date-Time Format, and the conversion of geographic subject/coverage data into hierarchical geographic subjects (state, county, city, etc.) and numeric latitude/longitude coordinates using data from the Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names. Whenever possible, the ingest process also generates thumbnail images for each object which are then stored in the Digital Commonwealth repository, along with an archival copy of the original metadata record prior to crosswalking.

While all of this involves significant time and effort, the result will be more accurate and more complete metadata records from these providers, and a better search and discovery experience for users as well as better representation of the data within larger shared contexts such as DPLA.

So far the OAI harvesting has been restricted to a test platform. By late February the BPL expects to finish the work on the OAI feeds at which point the feeds will be added to the public repository site (https://search.digitalcommonwealth.org). The focus will then turn to migrating the last few remaining collections from the DSpace repository into the new repository, and integrating the informational content on the current Omeka site into the new design. While no official date has been set for when the new repository will replace the existing systems and be launched as the “official” Digital Commonwealth site, it is anticipated that this milestone will be completed sometime in March.

All the latest news from the Digital Commonwealth of Massachusetts!

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Updates for January, 2014


Save the Date!! April 8, 2014


8th Annual Digital Commonwealth Conference

Hogan Center at Holy Cross in Worcester


This one-day conference features keynote addresses from two nationally known speakers: Melissa Levine and Liz Bishoff


Melissa Levine is the Lead Copyright Officer from the University of Michigan Library. She will speak about current copyright issues. 


Liz Bishoff, of the Bishoff Group, was previously the Executive Director of the Colorado Digitization Project. She will discuss statewide and regional digital collaborations and the need for sustainability planning.

Planned breakout session topics include audience engagement and crowdsourcing, conservation and digitization, online exhibits and lightning round presentations from Digital Commonwealth members. More details regarding sessions and pricing will be available in early February.
Repository update
The BPL has been busy working on adding OAI-PMH harvesting feeds from member sites to the new repository. In this latest blog post, read about the work being done and the anticipated completion dates: http://digitalcommonwealth.org/blog/?p=211.  
DPLA Plans Training Sessions
The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) is working with four content hubs, including Digital Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and planning a series of training sessions for public librarians. The goal is to help public librarians modernize their skills in a digital age, and in turn, communicate their work and their locales to the world.   
Digital Commonwealth and its partner organization, the Boston Public Library, will be announcing more details soon about the three upcoming training sessions.  Digital Commonwealth is delighted that Anna Fahey-Flynn, BPL’s Collaborative Library Services Manager, is helping to implement this exciting training program.

Member Projects: Blog Post Series

Two recent blog posts add to our series about member digitization projects. Both of these happen to focus on the challenges of creating metadata:

Lee Library Association’s Digitization Project

In a followup with Library  Trustee Mary Philpott, she discusses her experiences using the admin interface of the new repository at the BPL to create metadata for Lee Library’s digital objects: http://digitalcommonwealth.org/blog/?p=199

The Accidental Metadatalyst

Cara Marcus, Director of Library Services at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital, also examines metadata creation in this blog post, only in this instance using the Excel spreadsheet template provided by the BPL:  http://digitalcommonwealth.org/blog/?p=209
If you would like to highlight your institution and add your experiences to this ongoing series, please send details in an email to digitalcommonwealth@gmail.com
DPLA offices located at the Boston Public Library

In a recent blog post, Dan Cohen, Executive Director of the DPLA, describes the physical office space of the Digital Public Library of America within the Boston Public Library. Digital Commonwealth is glad to hear that its partner organization, the BPL, has been so welcoming to the DPLA!


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This is the second part of the Lee Library blog posts that examine their recent digitization projects. Part I is available here: http://digitalcommonwealth.org/blog/?p=125

This month, we are following up with Lee Library Association Trustee Mary Philpott. Mary has had access to the forthcoming new Digital Commonwealth Repository’s Administrative pages to help test the new repository and work with BPL staff to learn how to enter metadata. (The new Digital Commonwealth web-site will be available to the general public in early 2014.)

Figure 1. View of a draft record summary in new repository. The edit link is above the image

In entering metadata, Mary and her volunteers will be working from inventory sheets that were created decades ago.   These sheets have descriptions, subjects and provenance information.  Lee has only one copy of these sheets for each image, so having the metadata entered solves access and preservation goals for the Lee Library.  All levels of metadata, from descriptive to administrative, can be entered using the repositories new templates: Mary can not only enter descriptions, but who provided the information, as well as their relationship to the images, thus establishing the authority behind the descriptions themselves.   Tom Blake (Digital Projects Manager, BPL) and Danny Pucci (Lead Digital Projects Librarian, BPL) reviewed the inventory sheets with Mary and offered guidance as to how to transpose the printed metadata onto the templates on the Digital Commonwealth’s new repository.

After the review with Tom and Danny and actual practice with adding image files and metadata on the test repository, Mary was able to compare the pros and cons in the workflow using Excel spreadsheets vs. the templates from the new repository.  Working on the new repository is “much easier than using excel.  The new data entry form is clear and easier to use. You can see [your work] in a format that will be viewable to everyone.  Once you enter a description, the system remembers it when you enter new records, so, for example, entering the size of an image becomes easier as the system offers choices of the various sizes previously entered.”

“Not being a librarian, I am not used to the formatting rules.  Eben English was helpful explaining the types of data and format that belongs in the various data entry boxes.” Eben sent Mary a sample record of the Boston Red Sox image.  Mary compared that to a Fire Department photo she was working on and went on to enter another half dozen test records.

Figure 2. Partial view of record template in new repository. Note the drop down boxes and help features

After having the experience of entering the metadata live and seeing the immediate results, “I now understand why the formatting rules are so important in researching the material.  Entering the metadata in the templates is slow for the first few records but once you have a sense of the choices from the drop down boxes, a pattern develops.   It will be faster now that I have become familiar with the templates.  I will be able to show other board members, staff and volunteers how to enter our descriptions.  I am pretty exited about using the software.  I want to see our collection online and want this project to be finished so we have something to show people and be able to share all this information.   It will also help to get additional information from people who know and are familiar with the images.”

Mary explained that judgment calls will need to be made for each of Lee’s collections along the way.  Once all the metadata for these images is complete, Mary is looking forward to working with Lee’s scrapbooks, letters and business ledgers.  The business ledgers, for example, can paint fascinating glimpses into Lee’s history, such as the ledgers of a present-day restaurant/inn that was once a stagecoach stop in Lee and the names of guests are recorded as well as ads from local businesses.

Mary has had time to think a lot about the realization of her dream to see Lee’s history come alive online.  The new repository “has to be one that people can use-not just librarians.”  It’s important for people who know a particular community to be able to help with metadata entry, giving a more complete sense of the unique history of the town.  The volunteers as well as the staff have a vested interest in the town and they want to share that history with the younger populations.  The new repository has made that possible.

The collaboration between the professional librarians at the BPL and volunteers like the ones Mary will be working with provides the best of both worlds.  The professionals offer guidance and training allowing the local historians the opportunity to produce new digital content that will highlight the “distinct personalities” of each community. “Now, we are at the next step, a very concrete step.”