This is a guest post presented by Cara Marcus, Director of Library Services, Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital
The Accidental Metadatalyst
When the Boston Public Library announced their grant to digitize local collections and preserve them in the Digital Commonwealth, it seemed like a great opportunity for my small library to create our digital archives. I had worked with teams from BPL on a number of other projects and workgroups, and looked forward to collaborating with their staff on this exciting project. Boston Public Library had state-of-the-art equipment and a whole team of experts, who would work with me every step of the way to provide guidance and counsel.
Joining the Digital Commonwealth was the easy part, but when Thomas Blake, Chrissy Rissmeyer, Danny Pucci, Bahadir Kavlakli, and Jake Sadow first visited my library in 2011 and told me I would be creating metadata, I wondered what I was getting into! While I had catalogued, indexed, abstracted, and classified for decades, I had never actually created metadata. No worries, they told me – I would be given a step-by-step template that would guide me in the process.
The template arrived in easy-to-understand MS Excel, with recommendations and notes for genres, extents and formats. Soon I was delving into a world of tools and standards like the Graphic Materials: Rules for Describing Original Items and Historical Collections and the Library of Congress Name Authority File. While the process took a great deal of time (about a year to create metadata for about 300 materials), the BPL Digital Commonwealth Team was with me every step of the way, answering my questions by phone, email and in person.
I found that completing the metadata was fun, exciting, challenging, and opened up a whole new world. And there were some things I just couldn’t verify, such as photographers from 1917. While most of my genres were photographic prints or book illustrations, I did have some others, such as oil paintings, certificates and architectural drawings, where I had to hunt for the correct metadata in databases.
After I finished and sent in the completed spreadsheet, I received an edited spreadsheet and detailed five page report from Danny, Nicole Shea, Amy Benson and Sarah Emily, where everything was mapped to unique identifiers for each book or image. Their expert advice and recommendations helped me to complete the metadata for over 8,000 fields and prepare the records for the “final send-off”. One of the highlights of the project was bringing the last three books to BPL and getting a guided tour of their impressive digitization lab, cameras and equipment.
Now as I eagerly await my collection to be posted on the Digital Commonwealth, I am already being contacted by researchers who have discovered books the BPL team had posted to the Internet Archives from the Faulkner Hospital Collection. Since these materials were posted in the fall of 2012, they have been downloaded almost 1,500 times. So, accidental metadatalyst or not, the collection has proved discoverable, thanks to the Boston Public Library Digital Commonwealth Team.