Stephen P. Davis
Director of Library Systems
Director, Preservation and Digital Conversion Divison
Web and New Technologies Developer, Libraries Digital Program
Columbia University Libraries, like most research libraries, continues to digitize and publish parts of its collections deemed to be of value to researchers and scholars and to selectively digitize local content that Columbia faculty have specifically requested for their research and teaching. Recently, however, the organization has begun to implement a strategy that more actively supports other programmatic needs of special collections, specifically the need to create online exhibitions as an adjunct to major brick and mortar exhibitions and the desire to expose digitally smaller portions of their collections that they wish to highlight for various reasons. The ability to expand services in this way, without additional staffing, depends on an overall technology framework that uses Fedora as the digital asset management system and Omeka as one of the primary tools for publishing content.
Omeka and other locally developed software have allowed the organization, for the first time, to put a simple collection-oriented Web publishing tool directly in the hands of curatorial staff. At the same time, guidelines have been developed to help ensure that digital content created for these projects adheres to best practices for digitization and metadata creation and can be made available for reuse and repurposing via the organization’s Fedora repository. The success of this strategy depends on several things: the curatorial staff’s willingness to adopt new tools and procedures; the in-house digitization operation becoming more efficient; special collections directors’ willingness to prioritize and manage demand from within their departments; and on the technology team’s ability to grow the organization’s Fedora infrastructure, implement and adapt open source software, and develop the local programming solutions needed to tie these pieces together.