Wednesday, November 09, 2011

“From Theory to Practice: Accessing and Preserving Electronic Records and Digital Materials”
Conference sponsored by the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, held at the McKimmon Center, North Carolina State University, Nov 3 & 4, 2011
(For conference agenda, see
Notes by Thomas Cole, Librarian, Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library

November 3
Plenary Session
Amy Rudersdorf (State Library) and Erin O’Meara (UNC Chapel Hill) made similar points about digital repositories: that they are not passive sites where stuff just sits. In O’Meara’s words, they “never go into maintenance mode.” The collection can always be edited by the addition or deletion of primary source material or of commentary. The hardware where the files actually reside may change, the service provider who hosts the site may change, and the marketing and promotion of the site may have to be redone to reach new audiences.
Rudersdorf spoke of a “life-cycle” approach to digital repositories. Planning a project involves understanding the needs it addresses at its origin, the time and material needed to develop it, the work necessary to update and improve it, and the conditions under which it will be retired.
Rudersdorf defined a digital repository as a set of processes that, among other goals, builds trust. It establishes itself as reliable, available, and authentic in users’ minds. She made reference to “TRAC compliance,” which are standards, I later learned, developed for “Trustworthy Repositories Audit and Certification.”
O’Meara’s presentation was more technical, but it did include this little gem: open-source software is free, but “it’s not a free lunch, it’s more like a free puppy.”

Session 1, “Planning a Digital Project: Standards”
Lisa Gregory (State Library), “File Format Standards for Digitization”Lisa made the distinction between Preservation formats and Access formats. The former are for indefinite storage. File formats for this purpose should be non-proprietary, common, and lossless. (Examples are tiff’s for images, mpeg’s for videos, .wav’s for audo.)
Access formats should be acceptable by common sites for uploading, such as flickr, YouTube, and Internet Archive.
For preservation of / access to files that were “born digital” one faces the problem of the original format becoming obsolete and the document unreadable. Set a policy on how these will be rewritten, if at all.

Nicholas Graham (UNC Chapel Hill), “Metadata Standards for Digitization”
Metadata standards preserve consistency across institutions
Metadata rely on a controlled vocabulary - Library of Congress has authority files for names, description of graphic materials , subject headings
Metadata can be Descriptive, Administrative, or Structural
Descriptive Metadata
can be more or less detailed, depending on the expected needs of the user.
Don’t reinvent the wheel. Use Dublin Core descriptive tags or some other pre-defined set for specific disciplines.
Administrative Metadata
give information about how the item was preserved and copied.
Unrelated to the content of the item itself – who scanned the image and when, what is the internal ID # for it, for example
Structural Metadata
Give contextual information about the item itself.
What collection does it belong to, is it item x of y, for example.

Session 2, “Planning a Digital Project: Legal Considerations”
Peggy Hoon, J.D., UNC Charlotte
Assume that things are copyrighted. Works that are unpublished, unregistered, or even without © symbol are still protected by copyright.
Works published in the United States before 1923 are in the public domain. That boundary year will start to move forward in 2019.
Intellectual property rights do not necessarily go together with ownership.
“Parody, criticism, higher education” – purposes under which the “Fair Use” doctrine permits limited reproduction of copyrighted material.

Katie McCormick, UNC Charlotte
Rights of ownership as well must be established as part of grants applications
Keep records to document rights to physical ownership as well as intellectual property rights
Oral histories, for example – library must have permission for all the voices on the recording.

Session 3, Planning a Digital Project: Preservation and Storage”

Earl Cahill,
FamilySearch has used volunteers to do some of the work of digital preservation: transcription, indexing. The 1940 Census, for example, has been indexed by volunteers.
Volunteers’ work is checked by character-level comparisons of different transcriptions of the same document.

November 4
Session 1, “Economics: The True Cost of Managing a Digital Project”

Susan Sharpless Smith, Wake Forest University
Include as part of the project a “pilot program”. Scan and process a small portion of the total number of images to test whether one’s cost estimates are accurate.
Wake Forest partnered with WSSU and FCPL on a project called “Digital Forsyth.” Budget administration was centralized at WFU. Partners just provided services.
90 days before the end of the year, send a reconciliation statement based on actual and projected expenses to all partners.
Once the site goes live, funds will still be needed for preservation of digital materials.

Jane Blackburn, Braswell Memorial Library, Rocky Mount, NC
In 2001 Library acquired (for $20,000) a collection of negatives and prints from a local photographer .
The Charles S. Killebrew Collection turned out to half a million images, not the five thousand they had believed at first. Lesson #1 – Know what you’re getting into.
It took two years of volunteer work to re-sleeve the negatives and get them in to cool storage in Raleigh. Lesson #2 – Preservation before access
A local foundation funded further work, and an advisory committee of volunteers was formed. Lesson #3 – Seek partners in the community (but retain control over project).
Sampling of the Collection now online ( Lesson #4 – Handling this project piecemeal over a long period of time has led to a high cost per image so far.

Session 2, “Planning a Digital Project: Partnerships and Collaboration”
Victoria P. Scott, NC Genealogy Society
Discussed the NCGS Loose Estates Project , which aims to digitize the microfilmed loose estate papers currently in the State Archives.
Loose Estate papers contain information about people who did not leave wills. (Mitchell’s NC Will Index, for instance, lists only 78,000 names.)
In first phase of project, 31 volunteers worked 16 months to enter material from 223 reels.
FamilySearch became interested in the project, made “Waypointing” software available to capture and tag documents from microfilm. Productivity greatly increased.

Session 3, “Planning a Digital Project: Successes”
Druscie Simpson, NCDCR-State Archives
North Carolina Family Records Online shows family Bibles from North Carolina. (
Collection includes 500 Bibles from ten counties in NC.
Thoroughly indexed.

Michelle Czaikowski, NCDCR-State Library
Spoke about the “Commemorating the Civil War” Digital Collection on state site.
Planned the collection with the user’s needs in mind:
Users better served by bringing these materials together.
Do users want to browse or search?
Make different access points for different types of users
Beautiful collection, lots of added features – maps, timelines – to make material easier to understand.


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