I would like to propose a combination of general discussion and helpathon to address the needs and concerns of the providers and users of digital library collections; I think this could be combined with Andy Keck’s and Katie McCormack’s Session proposals and probably others. I am on the advisory board of an open –access digital library, the Digital Library of the Caribbean (www.dloc.com), which is a grant-funded partnership of libraries in Florida and the Caribbean(for brief description see below).* I am participating in this Unconference in part to learn ways to improve and otherwise help dLOC, but I am hoping that some of the issues that challenge this digital library are pertinent to other digital projects and would therefore be of interest to other people in the humanities who use or work on digital collections. Below I have listed some questions concerning digital collections (as examples) and would like to hear what other questions and experiences people have in regard to digital library collections.
Examples of Technical Questions:
- What type of tools and technologies do you find necessary and/or helpful when using a digital library? (e.g. particular search functions, bookshelves, the ability to make and save comments on materials as well as to share materials through Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
- What types of pedagogical guides or editorial information would you find helpful?
(dLOC, for instance, has workshops and posts teaching guides for various materials in addition to hosting a contest for teaching guides to specific material in the collection)
- How do you organize content from multiple digital collections?
Examples of Digital Scholarship Questions:
- How do we encourage/invite scholars to conduct their scholarly work with and through digital collections like dLOC? Instead of simply using materials in dLOC, what new forms of scholarship can we foster and how do we do so?
- Whereas projects like the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture are working primarily with newer media forms (scalar.usc.edu/anvc/?page_id=2), how do we support and encourage more traditional scholarly research to take full advantage of digital collections as source and operational resources?
Examples of Questions concerning publicizing collections and building relationships with users:
- How can a library advertise its collection so that scholars know that it exists?
- How might a library develop relationships with users of the collection to ensure that it is identifying useful texts for the field?
- Could the library foster relationships among users to develop further editorial and pedagogical materials?
Examples of Questions involving Open Access and National Patrimony Collections:
dLOC sees itself as a partnership working to preserve and make available (free of cost) content from Caribbean libraries, archives, and NGOs. However, some scholars and some librarians consider making digital copies of Caribbean content available through open access venues a loss—especially if those venues have their servers in the U.S.
Are there good answers for such questions as:
Why should a Caribbean National Library make rare novels and magazines available to people all over the world for free? Aren’t they (and their nation) losing income from researchers who would otherwise have to travel to the country and pay for copying, etc.?
Aren’t they also losing revenue they might gain through for-profit databases, such as Ebsco and Alexander Street Press? (dLOC’s agreements over content are all non-exclusive, so everything digitized for dLOC can also be sold to databases.)
Is it important that digital collections from the Caribbean and other regions in the Postcolony host their own servers and control their own software for digital projects?
*Each dLOC partner determines which materials it will digitize, retaining an electronic copy for itself and giving one to be housed on the dLOC server, where it will be maintained by the University of Florida Digital Library Collections’ (UFDC.com), which functions as a technical hub for the project. dLOC has two objectives: to preserve fragile materials, often housed in only one or two national libraries or archives in the Caribbean, and to make them available as widely as possible to citizens and scholars. Founded in 2004, with five partners, the project now has over 15 including the Archives Nationale d’Haïti and three other libraries in Haiti; the Caribbean Community Secretariat (CARICOM); the National Library of Jamaica; La Fundación Global Democracia y Desarrollo (FUNGLODE); Universidad de Oriente, Venezuela; the University of the Virgin Islands; Florida International University; University of Central Florida; the University of Florida, the University of the Netherlands Antilles, the Biblioteca National Aruba, and the Belize National Library Service and information System, and the Caribbean Region, International Resource Network.