For our first edition of Meet the Developer Team, we would like to introduce Chad Nelson who works at Temple University and is a part of PA Digital. The Developer Team has worked tirelessly on PA Digital’s aggregator so that our hub can harvest over 214,000 records from 38 institutions throughout Pennsylvania and contribute them to the DPLA.
Michael Carroll, Interviewer (MC): Can you tell our readers a little about yourself and your role/association with Temple University and the work you do there?
Chad Nelson, Developer Team Member (CN): I’m Lead Technology Developer at Temple University Libraries. I’m part of the team that builds applications and services that help users get access to our resources and make staff lives easier. I’m responsible for keeping the team of developers interested and focused, thinking strategically about our infrastructure and the maintainability of our applications.
MC: How did you first get involved with PA Digital and the DPLA?
CN: Before I started at Temple, which is when I started working with PA Digital, I was already involved with DPLA as a Community Rep. As a rep, I used data from the DPLA and the DPLA API to build applications I thought explored the data in new ways. As part of that process, I wrote a small software library making it easy to use the DPLA API in the Python programming language. I also built a few apps – Color Browse (http://colorbrowse.club/) allowing a small selection of DPLA data to be searchable by Color, and DPLA by State and County (http://chads.space/dpla/), that shows DPLA item distribution at the State and County level.
MC: Can you elaborate about your role in and contributions to PA Digital?
CN: I maintain the servers that power the PA Digital Aggregator, and contribute to the software we use to pull in data in from contributors, normalize it, and feed it through to the DPLA. This includes updating the application to perform new functions, reviewing code submissions from other developers on the PA Digital project, working with the metadata team on designing future requirements, or analyzing problems with data from new contributors.
MC: What is your favorite app for engaging with DPLA materials? How did you go about the initial stages of developing your apps for the DPLA?
CN: The Color Browse app is my favorite app that I worked on because I learned so much from building it, and it has really helped me discover items in collections I would never have otherwise found.
I started off that project by wondering how searching and classifying by color could even happen. I had never done that kind for work before so I started off small, trying to understand how I would get a list of all the colors in an image. Once I had a good sense of how that worked, looked around for a dataset with lots of images I knew how to get a hold of easily – and DPLA was the obvious choice.
MC: Are there any apps that you are currently working on or would like to see developed for the DPLA?
CN: I’m very irregularly working on the Color Browse application to add more items, allow searching for multiple colors within an image, and syncing with DPLA.
MC: How would you rate your experience working on PA Digital and how does it relate to the work you do at Temple University?
CN: Working on PA Digital has been challenging. Trying to find the right balance between writing applications that are general enough to handle the many different systems our contributors is not easy. It is something the DPLA itself has struggled with, and it is pretty obvious why.
It has really made me appreciate just how diverse and varied the structure of cultural heritage data is, and what a huge undertaking by the DPLA it is to have aggregated as much as they have.
We have had two harvests so far this year. Our April harvest saw the inclusion of Bryn Mawr College, Bloomsburg University, Montgomery County Community College, Slippery Rock University, Ursinus College, Philadelphia University, and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. This harvest included 19 new collections and 18,480 digital objects (records).
PA Digital was well-represented at DPLAFest 2017 in Chicago. Brandy Karl, Copyright Officer, from Pennsylvania State University presented on “Implementing Rights Statements @ PSU and PA Digital” (part of Turn the Rights On: a RightsStatements.org Update and Comparison of Regional Rights Standardization Projects). View her slides here!
Delphine Khanna and myself presented on “Reaching Out to Potential DPLA Hub Contributors: PA Digital’s Communication Strategy and Plan, or “The Accidental Public Relations Manager.” View our slides here!
Our June 2017 harvest saw the inclusion of West Chester University, Pennsylvania State Archives, La Salle University, Millersville University, Sewickley Public Library, and Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. This harvest also added 48 new collections and 27,780 digital objects (records).
We would like to extend warm thanks to all who worked with us to bring in new collections.
This guest post is by Linda Ballinger, Metadata Strategist @ the Pennsylvania State University, Chair of PA Digital Metadata Team Rights Subgroup
Last month I had the pleasure of presenting at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) spring 2017 conference in Newark, NJ, along with PA Digital colleagues, Doreva Belfiore (HSLC) and Kelsey Duinkerken (Thomas Jefferson University). I was glad to have this opportunity to talk about the work of PA Digital and DPLA. But I especially enjoyed getting to know some of the galleries, libraries, archives, and museums (GLAM) communities in the area, and exploring the archives side of GLAM. As a cataloging librarian, I’ve often worked with archivists on projects, but I’ve never attended an archives-centered conference before.
I was excited to see many sessions focused on cultural awareness, diversity, and inclusion. I started with the “Deconstructing Whiteness in Archives” session led by Sam Winn (Virginia Tech), where we held small group discussions based onRoadside Theater’s Story Circle method. These discussions helped set the stage for “Radical Honesty in Descriptive Practice,” a session composed of three presentations on a topic of great interest to me – bringing greater diversity and inclusiveness to descriptive metadata. Sam Winn (Virginia Tech) challenged us to stop assuming we can be completely objective and to consider ways in which archives (and, I would add, the rest of GLAM) contribute to the erasure of underrepresented communities. She pointed to theKnowledge River Institute at the University of Arizona as an example of what can be done to humanize descriptive practice by elevating community expertise and participation. Christiana Dobrzynski (Bryn Mawr College) also talked about partnering with the communities being described, but cautioned against doing so in ways that perpetuate colonialism and tokenism. She also emphasized the importance of documenting descriptive practices for greater transparency. Michael Andrec (Ukrainian Historical and Educational Center of New Jersey) pointed out that many researchers, especially those new to archival research, don’t read the notes in finding aids, so they miss out on a lot of the context archivists provide. He proposed putting more descriptive notes in the container lists, so researchers don’t miss out on valuable information.
I also attended “ArchivesSpace and Metadata: Using Creative Tools and Workflows for Archival Management Systems,” which began with a session by Jessica Wagner Webster (Baruch College, City University of New York) on converting EAD XML metadata into spreadsheets for ingestion into Omeka and conversion to Dublin Core. I look forward to exploring Webster’s technique further to see if it can help prepare some Penn State collections for PA Digital and DPLA. I will also be looking more closely at the presentations by Lora J. Davis (Johns Hopkins University) on using the ArchivesSpace API, and Bria Parker’s (University of Maryland) on normalizing archival metadata with OpenRefine.
Our own session, “Adaptable DPLA: Repurposing Data with PA Digital and the Digital Public Library of America,” was one of the last sessions of the conference, but was well attended, with at least 45 attendees. Doreva Belfiore provided an introduction, including the history of the PA Digital Service Hub and the process of adding collections to DPLA via the PA Digital Aggregator. She outlined the many ways DPLA enhances the discovery and use of member collections, such as clickable map and timeline interfaces, virtual exhibits, and primary source sets for K-12 teachers. She showed how the metadata normalization process that PA Digital provides for member institutions enables such discovery tools, and how DPLA’s efforts to standardize rights information makes it easier for researchers to know how they can use the resources they discover. She also talked about how preparing collections from Temple University for PA Digital and DPLA made those collections easier to share with other discovery portals, such asUmbra Search African American History. Next, Kelsey Duinkerken talked about her experiences at Thomas Jefferson University as a PA Digital contributor. She described the support they received from PA Digital and its Metadata Team to prepare their collections for sharing with DPLA. Finally, I described Penn State’s experiences with using standardized rights statements from RightsStatements.org and our interest in the recommendations of the DPLA Archival Description Working Group in their whitepaper,“Aggregating and Representing Collections in the Digital Public Library of America”. The whitepaper addresses the need for DPLA to allow some collection-level metadata, and offers ways to give researchers enough collection-level description to help them understand the context of digital objects in DPLA. After the session, the three of us answered questions from attendees contemplating participating in a DPLA Service Hub and questions about aggregating metadata in other contexts.
Any conference is enhanced by the kind of informal networking and idea sharing that takes place between sessions and during breaks. I learned a lot by having the chance to get to know archivists and other cultural heritage organizational professionals outside my usual conference routine, and I hope to attend other MARAC conferences in the future.
This guest blog post is written by Tara Murphy, Assistant Director of Digitization and Instructional Services @ Free Library of Philadelphia, and PA Digital Metadata Team Rights Subgroup member
This was my second time attending the DPLAfest representing the Free Library of Philadelphia. Last year DPLAfest was held in DC and most of the time I was just geeking out over being in the staff areas of the Library of Congress for all of the sessions and viewing the Capitol Building from my lunch terrace in the Library of Congress (We ate meals inside the Library of Congress!).
This year DPLAfest was hosted at Chicago Public Library’s Harold Washington Library Center. Upon arrival in Chicago’s “Loop,” it seemed like a Clean NYC and very tall DC got together and had a baby: Chicago. This time, I met with fellow PA Digital Rights group members, Brandy Karl and Rachel Appel, as well as Delphine Khanna From Temple University.
The opening session really focused on DPLA values: collaboration, inclusion, serving the public and really being stewards of our resources. I found these values repeated throughout the conference in sessions on how we are using digital communication with civic engagement, where we provide the infrastructure and how we really need to blend the digital and the analog in our programming. Outreach and transparency are more important than ever; making our staff more accessible and visible is the key to success in the 21st century world. For example – should we be concerned with disappearance or lowered visibility of archives and open data online?
This guest blog post is written by Brandy Karl, Copyright Officer and Affiliate Law Library Faculty @ the Pennsylvania State University, and PA Digital Metadata Team Rights Subgroup Member
I attended DPLAfest in April on behalf of the PA Digital DPLA Hub & PSU Libraries and spoke on a panel sharing the experiences of metadata teams: Managing Relationships, Managing Metadata: Digital Library Collaborations Between Institutions and Across Sectors.
I worked with the PA Digital Metadata Rights Subgroup team to present Anastasia Chiu’s analysis of rights statements in metadata associated with PA Digital objects. A few other hubs had the same idea – we all believe that this data is incredibly important to demonstrate our progress, the work that needs to be done to implement normalized rights statements, and to provide a deeper understanding of the overall DPLA metadata analysis, which is tilted heavily towards a few institutions with many DPLA contributions.
I also presented insights from our work on the Metadata Rights Subgroup – how we share cross-institutional workload and collaborate effectively with different systems and technologies.
Finally, I called upon the attendees to brainstorm technical ideas to combat static rights statements. That is to say that a rights statement is only good so long as the copyright term status hasn’t changed or the copyright law hasn’t changed. DPLA leadership was excited and I continue to receive questions and interest in resolving this big issue.
I was really struck by the multiple structural forms of the Hubs – I hadn’t realized that some hubs had their own staff.
DPLA is interested in forming a national working group to create Rights Statement & Metadata training, but doesn’t seem to be moving fast. It is my opinion that it should be a separately funded position (to create training); currently, it’s still falling on hubs to build their own, separate wheels (rather than sharing creation of the wheel together). But we are moving forward with that at PA Digital, and I think the Metadata Team’s work is showing true leadership in this area.
It’s clear that the DPLA is valuable – there were many sessions on the projects that started with access to the materials that DPLA has enabled, with an extremely strong emphasis on social engagement.
Everyone was very excited about the idea of creating a risk management toolkit. Understanding copyright and convincing administrations that it’s actually not very risky to engage in the sort of digitization most small institutions want to do should be top priority.
Today marks PA Digital’s first anniversary as a live service hub to the Digital Public Library of America! In the last year, we have worked with institutions all over the state of Pennsylvania to expose more than 168,000 digital objects to the general public through the DPLA. We are grateful for the collaborative efforts of our many excellent partners and contributors, and eagerly look forward to our second year. Happy birthday, PA Digital!
Welcome to this special Women’s History Month edition of the “Meet Our Contributors” feature! “Meet Our Contributors” spotlights the individuals who work with us to contribute digital collections from their institutions to PA Digital and the Digital Public Library of America. We want all of our readers to know about the amazing work that they do in their institutions, and what they believe partnership with PA Digital brings to their work. This month, we are pleased to hear from Mary Sieminski and Janet Hurlbert of the Lycoming County Women’s History Collection. Check out some of the Lycoming County Women’s History Collection, contributed through Lycoming College, in PA Digital and the DPLA!
Anastasia Chiu (AC): Can you tell our readers a little about yourself and your role/association with Lycoming College and the Lycoming County Women’s History Collection?
Janet Hurlbert (Janet): I was the administrator for the project as Associate Dean and director of library services for Snowden Library/Lycoming College until my retirement. I am now an advisor for the collection.
Mary Sieminski (Mary): I am the project manager — a position I’ve had for ten years now, from the beginning of the project. I do much of the actual work on the database, prepare items for digitization, create metadata, etc. We have had wonderful technical assistants and student assistants who have helped through the years.
AC: Can you tell me about the Lycoming County Women’s History Collection? Overall, what do you feel makes the collection significant or unique? What role or mission does the collection address?
Janet: The overall mission of the project is to provide source material relating to the history of women in Lycoming County with documents that highlight women in volunteer and reform organizations, education, the arts, the workplace and in their private lives. The time period covered is mainly 1870-1970.
What makes the collection special is its collaborative nature; it brings together four cultural heritage institutions in Williamsport: Snowden Library/Lycoming College, the Lycoming County Historical Society, the James V. Brown Library, and the Madigan Library/Pennsylvania College of Technology. Materials from several significant organizations such as the Williamsport YWCA are included as well, so it truly does represent women’s history for our rather small and rural community.
AC: How did the collection get started? How was it built?
Janet: The collection began because of good fortune — you could say that the stars were aligned just right! Mary, a “semi-retired” retired librarian, accepted a temporary appointment at Snowden Library during a maternity leave — in fact we had several maternity leaves all within a year. One of her special assignments was to investigate the possibility of outside funding so that we could digitize our college archives. We quickly saw that this was considered an institutional responsibility. I had been interested in more grant projects in general for the library as a contributing member of our college community. Mary and I shared an interest in women’s history and there was a need right in our own hometown to tell women’s stories.
Williamsport excelled at men’s history because of its lumbering and manufacturing heritage, but huge local history books seldom mentioned women. Lycoming College had been coeducational since the 19th century, and the Historical Society and public library had many books, papers, and images tucked away waiting to be discovered by a broader audience.
Utilizing Access Pennsylvania meant that we did not have to own our own server, and we received a PEW grant, which meant that we could digitize more book-type documents for significantly less. At that time, LSTA Grants were given for planning. Mary and I knew little about digitization and outsourcing and didn’t know where to start with material selection and prioritization. The opportunity to receive funds to hire consultants to help plan and organize the project was perfect. A subject specialist identified priorities and we determined outsourcing capabilities.
The second LSTA grant paid to actually do the work. We were set! A third LSTA Grant (after one unsuccessful attempt) allowed us to include documents from three essential community organizations — the Williamsport YWCA, the Williamsport Hospital School of Nursing Alumni Association, and the Home for the Friendless. Private donations enabled us to add other smaller collections such as the scrapbooks from the Williamsport Music Club.
Mary: As Janet said, she and I shared a passion for this history. It did not take long to realize what a rich resource we had uncovered. Some of the archives were in danger of being lost — the YWCA archives were in shambles, stored in closets and shelves all over the building, the Nursing School archives were in a building that was in danger of being razed, and the Home for the Friendless archives were stored in their basement. Each organization ultimately donated its archives to the Lycoming County Historical Society. Our most recent addition, being digitized right now, is a scrapbook form the 1920s and 1930s from a women’s prison in Lycoming County — the Industrial Home for Women at Muncy. One of our greatest achievements is preserving these archives and making them accessible.
AC: What role, if any, did your local community play in the development and growth of the Collection?
Janet: As we mentioned earlier, the steering committee is community based. We also have an advisory council composed of key individuals including representation from local school systems that meets about once a year to discuss directions for managing the collection and what should be included.
Mary: Our community has a great interest in its history and in preservation of historic homes, so it has been easy to find allies in our search for materials. Tour guides for Williamsport’s Millionaires’ Row tell us that they use our material to enrich their tours with stories of real people who lived in the large Victorian homes.
AC: Do you offer any programs or workshops for researchers and community members?
Janet: The collection has a curriculum guide designed for middle and high school levels. A faculty member from the education department at Lycoming College who designed it has conducted workshops for teachers. We have given numerous presentations and “how to” sessions about the collection for local historians and genealogists.
Mary: I have taken on the role as being a “voice” for the collection and have presented to many local women’s groups and historical societies. I love to talk about what one reporter called “my nineteenth century friends.” One spin off from the collection has been a monthly newspaper column titled “Williamsport Women.” Through the online collection, Janet and I discovered so many individual women and groups of women that have had an impact on our community, we wanted to spread their stories even further than the digital collection. The series has received very enthusiastic support from its followers. Even after three years, Janet and I can seldom go anyplace, including the grocery store, without someone telling us how much he or she enjoys the column.
AC: What goals or purpose do you hope contributing to PA Digital and the DPLA can achieve for the Lycoming County Women’s History Collection?
Janet: We have always wanted to present the story of Williamsport Women to as many researchers, students, amateur historians, and genealogists as possible. A digital audience is perfect for that purpose.
Mary: What PA Digital and DPLA can do is help us spread the word and make access easier to potential users all over the globe. Having our local collection a part of a state and national database with such a wide audience is “a dream come true” for us.
AC: Thank you very much, Janet and Mary! Readers, don’t forget to check out the Lycoming County Women’s History Collection through their website, PA Digital, and the DPLA!
Welcome to the third installment of the “Meet Our Contributors” feature. “Meet Our Contributors” spotlights the individuals who work with us to contribute digital collections from their institutions to PA Digital and the Digital Public Library of America. We want all of our readers to know about the amazing work that they do in their institutions, as well as their insight from experience as contributors to the DPLA. This month, we are pleased to hear from Tristan Dahn, Digital Projects Librarian at the Historical Medical Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Check out some of the Historical Medical Library’s collections in the DPLA!
Anastasia Chiu, PA Digital Metadata Team: Can you tell our readers a little about yourself and your role with the Historical Medical Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia’s digital collections?
Tristan Dahn, College of Physicians: Hi Anastasia! Thanks for asking me to participate in this Q&A. Getting our content up on the DPLA has been one of my more exciting accomplishments from the last year.
I came to work at the Historical Medical Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, and as a librarian, in a slightly roundabout way. I studied Music at Bard College from 2001-2005, and spent close to a decade after living in Philadelphia as part of its performance/art scene. It was during this time that I also discovered a real love of literature, which led to my working at both an independent bookstore and a small publishing company. Through this, and through volunteer work I performed at Books Through Bars, an all-volunteer run not for profit based in West Philadelphia that provides educational and reading materials to incarcerated people, I came to understand better the importance of textual information in constructing one’s worldview and sense of self. This, and the desire to find a more stable career path, led me to pursue a Master’s in Library and Information Science. I did my Master’s work at McGill University in Montreal, and it was through my coursework there, and through an internship at .txtLAB, a digital humanities laboratory at McGill, that I came to learn to work with data, and to love working with data, and it was this skill set that brought me to my current position at the Historical Medical Library.
The Mutter Museum, part of the College of Physicians with the Historical Medical Library, was one of my favorite cultural institutions in Philadelphia while I was living there, so when I saw the posting for the position of Digital Projects Librarian, I was excited to apply, and even more excited to get the job! It has been a fantastic opportunity. The Historical Medical Library has a unique and fascinating collection, and it is a great privilege to be working with these materials, especially so early in my career as a librarian/archivist. My role involves managing digitization and metadata for digital objects, maintaining and customizingour digital library andArchivesSpace instance, creatingdigital exhibitions out of our digital content, some simple graphic design, working with the data in our museum and library catalogs to help in the transition to our new linked data catalog we are affectionately calling the “Digital Spine,” as well as a number of small non-digital tasks related to the collaborative nature of our small staff.
AC: Do you have a favorite item or collection that you’re particularly excited about contributing to PA Digital and the DPLA? (It’s ok, we all have favorites!)
TD: My favorite collection at the moment is a collection of photographs from “Old Blockley,” which was the nickname for the Philadelphia General Hospital when it was part of the Philadelphia Almshouse starting in 1731. Largely late 19th Century, the photographs depict daily life, the building and its grounds, patients and pathologies, and many of the doctors and nurses who were on staff at the time. The result is a vibrant portrait of a place, which at the time, was central to the health care of the elderly and indigent. Since many ofthese photographs are unique to our collection or have not been previously digitized, being able to share them widely via the DPLA is quite exciting.
AC: How did you and your colleagues decide to become part of the PA Digital partnership and the DPLA? What goals or purpose do you hope being part of PA Digital can achieve?
TD: You reached out to us! For which we are very grateful. As a relatively small special collections library that is part of a relatively small institution, our collection has, in the past, been somewhat overlooked. We currently have the largest professional library staff in quite a while, and are working actively to revitalize the collection and promote its use. Hosting images on the DPLA provides us with an opportunity to share some of our unique resources with the curious while also drawing in people who may want to do more rigorous research with our collections in our reading room.
AC: Are there any digitization or preservation projects for your collections, past, present or planned, that you’d like to tell our readers about?
TD: Yes! The Historical Medical Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia is a member of a collaborative medical digital library called theMedical Heritage Library (MHL). Over the past couple of years, MHL has been working on a project funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Arcadia Fund, to digitize the extant volumes of medical journals produced by state medical societies during the twentieth century. We have contributed over 750 volumes from our collection of journals, a corpus that in the end will include 117 titles, comprising over 2.5 million pages in 3,579 volumes. The volumes, which document the American medical tradition regionally and nationally, are full-text searchable, and available in a variety of formats, including plain text, which will enable opportunities for digital medical humanities projects. The project will be complete in April 2017, but the majority of volumes are already scanned and available on the Internet Archivehere.
AC: Do you collaborate with other organizations to make your content available and/or to create public programming around it?
TD: Our biggest and most consistent collaboration in the digital realm is the Medical Heritage Library, described above. However, we are also a member of thePennsylvania Area Consortium of Special Collection Libraries (PACSCL), whose members include The Library Company, Chemical Heritage Foundation, the Kislak Center, the American Philosophical Society, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, among many others. We have collaborated with partners from PACSCL in order to partake in symposiums and workshops, provide our materials to accompany speakers at other institutions and even helped organize a skill share day around working with ArchivesSpace, an open source solution for hosting and presenting archival finding aids. A current digitization effort we are involved in through PACSCL isBibliotheca Philadelphiensis, which is funded through a CLIR grant awarded to Lehigh University, and seeks to digitize and make available online all the Medieval and Early Modern manuscripts in PACSCL collections.
Additionally, we have had classes from UPENN attending the library this past year to learn about our materials and the value of primary source research, we have createdstudent resource guides in conjunction with National History Day, and continue to support the Center for Public Education and Initiatives here at The College of Physicians by providing pop-up exhibits and classroom talks.
That said, we are always looking for further opportunities for collaboration, so please feel free to reach out to us!
AC: You’ve been working with us since summer 2016; how has your experience with PA Digital and the DPLA been? Do you have any feedback for us?
TD: Great! Everyone I’ve worked with at PA Digital has been gracious and willing to work with us to resolve any issue that has arisen. Though I have not yet needed to “attend,” the virtual office hours offered by your team seem like a great resource for those looking to get involved or for partners who are looking to troubleshoot issues or expand their contribution.
AC: As an experienced collaborator with us, what advice do you have for those who are considering bringing their collections to PA Digital and the DPLA?
TD: The main thing I would say is know your data! The main issues we had with exporting metadata from our digital library involved conventions around metadata as established both locally and through our digital library platform, Omeka. Understanding the conventions for specific metadata field usage, both at the DPLA and at your institution, is the first step in understanding how to map the export.
The other issue had to do with the plug-in for Omeka that enables the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH). Out of the box, it did not provide the correct image file and exported a few fields that, though accurate in our context, did not fit the accepted use for the DPLA. A basic knowledge of the source code for Omeka and the plug-in, as well as some PHP, made the customization rather simple.
This might sound slightly complicated, but in reality, it was a pretty quick fix, and solving the issue was empowering. I would encourage anyone looking to collaborate to be willing to get their hands a little dirty!
AC: All of this sounds like great advice from my perspective as well. Thanks very much for your time and your insight, Tristan!
Happy 2017, Pennsylvania! This month, we present a new segment of the “Meet Our Contributors” feature. “Meet Our Contributors” spotlights the individuals who work with us to contribute digital collections from their institutions to PA Digital and the Digital Public Library of America. We want all of our readers to know about the amazing work that they do in their institutions, as well as their insight from experience as contributors to the DPLA. This month, we are pleased to hear from Kelsey Duinkerken, Special Collections and Digitization Librarian at Thomas Jefferson University’s Scott Memorial Library. Check out some of Thomas Jefferson University’s collections in the DPLA!
Anastasia Chiu, PA Digital Metadata Team: Can you tell our readers a little about yourself and your role with Thomas Jefferson University’s digital collections?
Kelsey Duinkerken, Thomas Jefferson University: Of course! I have been the Special Collections and Digitization Librarian at Thomas Jefferson University for the last three years. With this job I have feet in both the very physical aspects of our Archives as well as the digital side, which is not only a lot of fun but gives me the opportunity to see items throughout their journey – from initial accession to description to digitization to online access, to put it simply. My involvement in our digital collections spans a number of areas. I manage all of our digitization projects, and make that material more accessible through inclusion in our institutional repository (Jefferson Digital Commons), our Instagram and Twitter accounts, our website, and, of course, the DPLA! I am also in charge of web archiving and other digital initiatives at Thomas Jefferson University.
AC: Do you have a favorite collection or two that you’re particularly excited about contributing to PA Digital and the DPLA? (It’s ok, we all have favorites!)
KD: I’m not sure about collection, but my favorite item would have to be the Oregon Trail journal of Harmony A. Smith. Growing up loving history (and playing Oregon Trail) it’s so neat to read about someone’s actual experience. The first half of the journal contains lecture notes from Smith’s time as a student at Jefferson Medical College, and the second half details his time on the Oregon Trail, from May 10 to July 6, 1850. He describes his experience attending a Mormon church service, visiting Salt Lake City, and celebrating the 4th of July on the trail. And for those who played the computer game, there are plenty of references to fording rivers, trading and bartering, interacting with different Indian tribes, bad weather, Independence Rock, Devil’s Gate, Laramie Fort, dangerously steep hills, and broken axles! We also have a transcript available if you don’t have the time or desire to decipher the handwritten pages.
AC: How did you and your colleagues at Thomas Jefferson University decide to become part of the PA Digital partnership and the DPLA? What goals or purpose do you hope being part of PA Digital can achieve?
KD: I first heard about PA Digital from Doreva Belfiore at a meeting of area digital managers and was intrigued about its potential to make our collections accessible to an even wider audience. Especially once we learned that an ingest would be fairly easy from bepress to the DPLA, we were sold. We’re a fairly small repository so being involved in the DPLA helps get our name out and increase our online presence with minimal work and no extra cost for us. As I’m sure most cultural heritage institutions would agree, with limited funding and staffing, this was a perfect fit.
AC: Are there any digitization or preservation projects for these collections, past, present or planned, that you’d like to tell our readers about?
KD: One of our more popular collections has been our medical college yearbooks. They present a rich history of how medical education has changed and evolved over the years, not to mention style and student life. They are a particularly rich resource for the graduates themselves, family members, and genealogists. In the future we are hoping to also digitize our nursing yearbooks, but they are more difficult to scan so it may be a little while.
AC: Do you recommend any resources that were particularly helpful to you at any stage of building your digital collections, or bringing your digital collections to PA Digital?
KD: If your content is housed in bepress, be sure to reach out to your representative! They are extremely helpful for getting your content ready – whether that is changing settings on the backend or giving you tips for how to make batch edits to collections. I will also give a shout-out to the members of PA Digital! They have always been quick to respond to my questions and have provided detailed feedback to make sure our collections are ready for ingest. They have made the overall process of adding collections to the DPLA smooth and simple.
AC: Is there anything that you know now about the process of bringing collections into the DPLA that you wish you had known beforehand? What would you suggest to any colleagues who might be considering contributing to PA Digital?
KD: Start small and go for it! Unless your metadata is robust and in perfect condition, you will need to spend time making it better before it can be ingested. While this might seem overwhelming at first, you don’t need to add all of your digital content to the DPLA at once. Just start with a few collections so you can understand the process and see how it works. From there you can prepare other collections for subsequent ingests. This is the model we have followed, and it’s been very successful. We’ve contributed new content in several waves, which has made the process really manageable. If you’ve been thinking about contributing content to the DPLA, just go for it. Start with one or two collections and before you know it you’ll have a huge chunk of your content in the DPLA!
AC: Thank you so much for all your thoughts, and for your time, Kelsey!
KD: Thanks, Anastasia, it was great talking with you!
As many of you may know, PA Digital has a Metadata Team that works with new and existing contributing institutions to expose digital collections in PA Digital and the DPLA. The team also builds conversations on metadata standards for our DPLA service hub, and generally engages in outreach to institutions all over the state. Many of PA Digital’s contributing institution representatives and community members have already interacted with the PA Digital Metadata Team many times. We would like to spotlight this team’s members, who work together out of several different institutions, and let them tell you why they are passionate about PA Digital. We begin with Doreva Belfiore, Digital Projects Librarian at Temple University Libraries.
Anastasia Chiu, Interviewer (AC): Can you tell our readers a little about yourself, your role with the PA Digital Metadata Team, and your wider role as a project manager for PA Digital?
Doreva Belfiore, Metadata Team Member (DB): I’m a Digital Projects Librarian in the Digital Library Initiatives department at Temple University Libraries in Philadelphia. I manage a team of 3 people that oversee the TUL Digital Library, the digitization of various material formats, and much of the non-MARC cataloging and ingest of digital objects into the repository.
For PA Digital, I serve as a co-manager, and I generally do a lot of the outreach for our project. So you might see me presenting at conferences, conducting webinars and training sessions, and otherwise helping our new constituents get their data into PA Digital and the DPLA. As the frequent first point of contact, I try to shepherd our partners along the way and answer their questions about partner agreements, harvest schedules, metadata standards and testing and other needs. I also help out with back-office work for the project, such as meeting scheduling, documentation and required grant paperwork.
Outside of my primary job, I am a volunteer Community Rep for the DPLA, so I have done introductory presentations about the Digital Public Library of America geared towards members of the public. If you are interested in having someone talk to your group about the DPLA, please contact me via PA Digital at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m a member of the PA Digital Metadata Team, and I often chair team meetings, making sure that all of the data testing and harvesting is happening on schedule to support our quarterly data ingests into the DPLA. I am one of the liaisons to the PA Digital Developers Team, so I attend regular meetings where I help to ensure that our 3 open-source Hydra [DPLAH GITHUB] data aggregators [PROD] are functioning up to code specifications, and that they can be modified or enhanced when we have new repository types to support. You can often find me reviewing harvested contributor metadata, testing aggregator features, participating in orientation calls for new institutions, making presentations about metadata standards and normalization, or staffing one of our virtual office hours where we answer metadata questions. Come talk to us or email us anytime! We love metadata and are happy to talk to everyone and anyone about it. Don’t worry if you are not experienced in creating metadata, or even if you don’t know what metadata is. Here is a nice introductory video that explains metadata in under 5 minutes:
AC: Do you have any favorite items or collections that are currently in PA Digital and the DPLA? (It’s ok, we all have favorites!)
AC: What role do you see PA Digital playing for cultural heritage institutions all over Pennsylvania?
DB: I see PA Digital as being an amazing conduit for discoverability of digital materials from Pennsylvania’s cultural heritage institutions. It provides global exposure for our partner’s excellent digital content and the potential for reuse in many contexts, especially for education. The more we can promote our state’s cultural and historical materials, advocate for and support our institutions, the better.
AC: What is your favorite aspect of working with the Metadata Team?
DB: I really enjoy collaborating with my excellent colleagues to help advise and guide new participants into PA Digital and the DPLA. We have a lot of fun, and learn a lot, when we are on orientation calls, virtual office hours, webinars and presentations together. I hope you get to meet them in person, on the phone, or via interviews on this blog!
AC: What are you looking forward to in the Metadata Team’s work over the next grant year?
DB: I’m really looking forward to bringing on many new partner institutions, and to be able to support additional repository platforms such as Islandora, Hydra, Artstor Shared Shelf, and Past Perfect Online. We are in line to surpass 200,000 records ingested into the DPLA and I would love to see us get to 300,000 next year if we can.
AC: What general advice do you have for folks who are considering exposing their collections to the Digital Public Library of America through PA Digital?
DB: Don’t be afraid to share your digital records with PA Digital, the DPLA, or for that matter other data aggregators! Our Metadata Team has a great deal of collective knowledge of MARC and non-MARC metadata standards as well as multiple repository platforms. We all, Metadata team included, have messy data and we recognize that cleaning and normalizing metadata is an ongoing, iterative process. It’s time well invested that will pay off in the long run, aiding in the discovery of your institution’s materials by patrons all over the world. Talk to us! We are happy to guide you.
AC: Thanks so much for your insight and advice, Doreva!