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.”