Thanks to “Digital Directions”

Conference quality is a crapshoot, and their entertainment value is limited at best.  This is why when I attended Digital Directions, 2012, in Boston this summer, I was completely surprised how refreshed and energized I felt, even after three days of almost non-stop sessions.  My path to attending this conference, however, was both convoluted and serendipitous.

Planning ahead is key to finding and funding interesting conferences in the academic world.  At the beginning of each academic year I trudge through a litany of conference announcements and CFPs (call for papers).  Is the conference going to be interesting?  Maybe.  Is is going to be expensive?  Probably, unless it’s local.  I usually walk away from the process thinking that it’s easy to settle for the TLA (Texas Library Association) conference since it will either be in my backyard (San Antonio) or a short “Texas drive” away.

This spring I received an invitation that appeared mildy interesting. “Digital Directions 2012” from the NEDCC (Northeast Document Conservation Center) arrived in my junk email, and  I actually read it.  I had planned to send it to a colleague who actually managed our digital library, but low and behold, I get word, within days of receiving this invitation, that all digital library plans would be on hold. Again.  Why?  Because my colleague’s “big hat” was planted with a new non-librarian title.  And just when I thought we might get this train going again.

Earlier this year my knowledge of digital libraries sat blissfully planted in 2006, the year we launched the Lanham Digital Library (LDL).  An Amigos course here and there gave periodic boosts to my waning expertise, but I believed that my involvement with the LDL would be limited to archival item selection.  My institution has a knack for identifying uncelebrated strengths among faculty and staff, and thus the primary librarian for the digital library was crowned with a new, additional title just a few short years after arriving here.  The digital library would have to wait.

Though it may sound like it, I’m not griping.  I know what it is like to get that call.  My own passion for Holocaust education was tapped and I was whisked away with a throng of students to Germany and Poland, twice.  All expenses paid trip to Europe?  Yes please.

This development was an opportunity.  Back in the day I actually enjoyed working on the LDL when I had time, but sometimes the weight of so many hats can crush a person’s will to take on more.  Thanks to the presence of an amazing workstudy (thank you, federal government), I seemed to have a little more time on my hands, and thus, energy.  Energy, however, doesn’t mean there’s money unless you jump through some hoops, so I did what needed to be done for a faculty development grant and crossed my fingers. Low and behold, 76% of my costs would be covered.  Odd number, happy me.

So I made my flight and hotel reservations, checked to make sure that childcare would be available, and hoped for inspiration.

So what does a person do when you start a digitization project, and momentum, money, and expertise wain after the launch?  What do you do when the project pretty much grinds to a halt because the website is static rather than dynamic?  Who creates content when no one has time to spare, even for scanning?  How do you find the time or energy to restart such an enormous, but important, project?  The answer I received at DD Boston?  Reset and restart.

It’s important to keep moving forward no matter the obstacles.  Perserverance is key to successful digital projects, and digital projects help keep history alive.  They make history more accessible to the current generation and to those more than 50 miles away.  They provide fodder for the creative and evidence for the historian.  Serendipity and hat titles aside, this project is worth the time and energy.  Let’s see if we can this train going again.

Information shared on this site will contain opinions or views that do not necessarily reflect the opinion or views of Schreiner University.  

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2 responses to “Thanks to “Digital Directions”

  1. WhoHoo!! Schreiner’s library staff’s “many hats” would create the most interesting Mad Hatter tea party ever! Reset & restart sounds like that tea party waiting to happen. The plethora of information in Schreiner’s archives & static digital library should be the first resource to the students & faculty at Schreiner, not the info from EBSCO (although I’m not knocking EBSCO, I just don’t think the students/faculty are totally aware of HOW MUCH information the library really has). And, if EBSCO is used then it would be nice if Schreiner’s info were the first results to pop-up, from their new live-digital-library.

    Anyway, I’m getting off-subject (like I do). Concentrating on Schreiner’s digital library is a great move. Making the digital library dynamic (i.e. live) and available to the world will not be easy, but nothing in the library world is. Schreiner’s library faculty’s passion for information and available relevant resources, their desire to make the world aware Logan Library’s content by adding our material to the Online Computer Library Catalog (OCLC, ie WorldCat), shows that they care about Schreiner, resources, and availability. The staff/faculty of Logan Library have shown me the importance of available information. And, how making the information available is as important, if not more important, than having the information in the first place.

    Libraries and the need for libraries are NOT going the way of the telegraph. People still need information, and although they may not need the physical item in their hand, the ability to logon to a “digital library,” see the actual document, and use the information makes the additional energy to reset & restart more important than ever!

  2. The library definitely suffers from a rabbit-hole syndrome – to the passerby, we are simply a building that houses books and computers. Once you probe further, however, you find that the resources and possibilities are nearly infinite. The special collections are a perfect example of this, and it’s also a reason the mad hatter analogy really works, especially for me. Since we are a small school, it’s necessary that I wear the myriad of hats that I do in order to take advantage of those possibilities and resources.
    Our resources have little impact if our patrons can’t access them. Unfortunately our ‘digital library’ resources aren’t a good fit to EBSCO. Instead, we are working our contributions to a major digital library in Texas, the Portal to Texas History. Our patrons are also not limited to people in Kerrville. Access really is the key – and by finding a collaborative partner that is well supported both financially and institutionally, we can contribute and make accessible the unique resources that we house.
    What’s even more exciting is what can happen once the access is provided. What will people do with the access? What impact will it have on projects both in process and those that are just in the theoretical stage? I am currently headed back from the Digital Library Federation’s Forum 2012 (post to come), and it was completely clear, based on the number of projects presented and the involvement of the attendees, that the future of libraries and librarians is a bright one. The telegraph analogy isn’t completely inappropriate one though – after all the telegraph began a march towards incredibly innovative communication technologies.

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