Digital technologies enable the Library to extend and expand our core role in providing knowledge to the University community. While we don't expect the need for traditional library materials and service to diminish, demand for electronic information continues to rise rapidly. For our own unique collections, digital versions will not exist unless we create them ourselves. Although the library cannot digitize all of our unique material, we can identify a limited number of collections that will be especially valuable in digital form. The Vanderbilt Libraries are currently involved in a number of digital initiatives, and we expect to do even more work in this area in the future.
A successful initiative to digitize a collection involves many facets, including financial support; the technical infrastructure to store and deliver the digitized content; trained staff and equipment to digitize the original material; descriptive metadata to facilitate access to items within the digitized collection; and the establishment of the technical environment, policies, and institutional support to insure the long-term preservation of the collection. Each of these dimensions represents a major effort and is supported by standards, technologies, guidelines, and practices that have been established by other libraries, museums, associations, and commercial organizations that have been involved in earlier digitization projects.
Television News Archive
Steve Davis Working with
In the last two years the Vanderbilt Television News Archive has undertaken a number of important accomplishments. Online access to the abstracts has been greatly enhanced through the creation of a new searchable database environment that allows users to quickly and easily identifies individual news items in the collection through keyword searching or to browse for programs by date. The Archive has transformed its recording operation using digital technologies. Beginning in August 2003, its 35th anniversary, all new programs have been recorded in digital format. In January 2004, the Archive launched a new subscription-based service that provides access to online streaming video for designated parts of the collection in addition to the database of abstracts. The Archive is currently working on digitizing its entire collection of 40,000 hours of news programming.
In the last year, we have implemented a completely new Web Site , search engine, and user interface for the Archive's users to locate and request items from the collection. The Web site employs a powerful search engine that allows users to easily find the material they need or they can browse through the collection by date through dynamically generated calendar pages that list each program in the collection for any given month.
Currently, we are converting the existing videotape collection to digital video. The Archive has also changed from recording news broadcasts on videotape to capturing the same content directly into digital files. The library received grants from the National Science Foundation and from a local private foundation to fund this transition.
A major challenge for digital technologies involves the question of long-term preservation of such collections. Given the short-term life expectancy of any kind of computer technology, preservation involves a constant cycle of migration through many generations of storage and computer technologies. With the Television News Archive, we have addressed the issue of long-term preservation through a partnership with the Library of Congress. Copies of all the material digitally captured will be transmitted to the Library of Congress to be added to a facility that they have designed specifically for the long-term preservation of digital materials.
Research libraries across the country and in Europe are beginning the development of Institutional Repositories where their faculty can store and make accessible the fruits of their research and their teaching materials. These repositories offer faculty a permanent archive for their digital material and a consistent means of exposing it to the world of scholarship. The Jean and Alexander Heard Library is working with an advisory board of faculty and other campus support units to development an Institutional Repository here.
Through an initiative funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the library led a multi-institutional collaborative digital initiative in the area of ancient Near East Archaeology called ETANA This effort included a project to digitize and make available a group of out-of-print classic works in the field (ETANA Core Texts) and the creation of a research database of related Internet resources (ABZU).
Voices of Vanderbilt
New frontiers lie in using digital technologies to provide instant access to sound. Rich media content is visually interesting and is often the only way to effectively represent many expressions of human experience and cultural heritage. The Voices of Vanderbilt project uses digital sound to bring to life the voices of key figures involved with Vanderbilt as they respond to interview questions in this oral history project.
The new electronic edition of Charles Baudelaire: Une Micro-Histoire by Professor Raymond Poggenburg demonstrates how converting a textual work to digital form can dramatically improve its usefulness. This reference work provides the definitive scholarly history in excruciating detail of the life and works of this important nineteenth century French literary figure. In its original paper form, finding references for any event was at least a tedious three-step process. In its new electronic format, all the information about a person, topic, or date can be viewed instantly.
These projects represent the library's early efforts with digital collections. As we build on the technical infrastructure and staff experience established through these efforts, given the worldwide trends toward digital information, we can expect the library to create more digital collections in the future.
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