The past few months have absolutely gotten the better of me & I haven’t had a whole lot of free time left between school, work, and group projects for blog posting or following. But I have been learning a LOT this semester. One awesome thing I’d like to share is the World Digital Library (WDL) initiative.
I’m taking a class right now that’s all about Digital Libraries and Archives, so I’ve been introduced to and am starting to grow familiar with some cutting-edge metadata schemas like METS, MODS, & PREMIS. In applying that knowledge to an assignment, our Professor has asked that we build small-group task forces to punch out what a well thought out directory for a digital repository could look like. My group started with the assignment-delegated imaginary budget (of $2 million) and realized that even a perfect design could not sustain itself for long with a budget like that. We wanted our scope to reach to the types of institutions that would likely have the resources and manpower to offer something to the sustainability, while keeping long-term digital preservation and plans for expansion in mind.
After a few weeks of research, and drawing up models and similar ‘real-world examples’ of the kind of focus we were looking to implement, I discovered the WDL – which already had much of what we were looking at in place. Although that was a little bit disheartening at first, it has allowed me to realize the value in building off of ideas that already exist. While their very new launch and list of partners is adapting and transforming to better technology and learning new lessons every year, my graduate group of three has already come up with several weaknesses in the WDL directory, and has decided to work on building from their work to create something even greater. With our Professor on board, I’m now fascinated with the complications and depth that this project quickly began to show.
The WDL creates original XML cataloging records for each artifact it brings into the repository from partner institutions, and encodes it in 7 languages (Arabic, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Chinese). The site can also be viewed natively in any of these languages. Formats, geographic location, subject matter, institution, and creation date all serve as access points to the online data. The WDL has an impressive array of donations that come in grant-based and proprietary forms. They aim to digitize and make available primary source data from around the world, particularly taking care to represent the cultures and societies of third world or underprivileged nations without the means to make their cultural history widely available on their own.
What we’d like to research further, or get information directly from the WDL about are plans and expected growth projections of the repository, the average amount of time, labor, and cost it takes to add an original XML (METS) metadata record to the repository, how often (if at all) they build from pre-existing MARC or EAD cataloging, how many people are employed, what kind of server space and IT upgrades they’ve exhausted/undergone so far, required data ingest formats (PDF/TIFF/JPEG?) to accept primary data in, where and with whom copyright responsibility lies with, and their plans for long-term sustainability and digital preservation, among other things.
Our research on this project has also allowed me to see how many similarly ambitious and revolutionary changes are emerging right now in the digital world. My experience at the University of Michigan alone has allowed me to see a sign-on with Google Books, and the follow-up digitization of our 9 million + collection, the rise (and pauses) of the Hathi Trust Digital Library, and the UM Participation in yet another venture (a contradictory one at that): the Digital Public Library of America, which aims to re-launch the intellectual history preservation effort from scratch, committing to higher levels of quality and transparency in materials and user accessibility.
I know, I know…
…but I can’t help it! It’s all so COOL! :)