This course focuses on the current state of “digital libraries” from a multidisciplinary perspective. Its point of departure is the possibilities and prospects for convergence of professions and cultures around the notion of digital media and content. The course covers the history of the idea of digital library and digital archive, especially its manifestation as projects and programs in academic, non-profit, and research settings, and the suite of policy issues that influence the development and growth of digital libraries and archives. A foundation of core archival principles as applied in digital library and archives settings will serve as an intellectual construct supporting the exploration of the related concepts of scholarly communication, digital preservation, cyberinfrastructure, representation, and standards/best practices. Students will be expected to master a diverse literature, to participate actively in the discussion of issues, and to take steps, collectively and individually, to advance our understanding of future directions of digital libraries and archives.
- Apply key archival principals to a digital library program
- Understand the development of digital libraries and archives as an international phenomenon
- Explore the literature, key leaders, and significant digital library/archive programs
- Specify the critical skills required to build and maintain digital collections
- Refine a set of research questions associated with knowledge representation in digital libraries
- Establish a broad context for the issues and challenges facing digital libraries and archives
Required readings average 150 to 250 pages per week, with optional reading determined by each student’s interests and knowledge, as well as the relevance of a given topic to course projects and final reports. All required readings are either on the World Wide Web (WWW), accessible through the CTools site for the course, or available through University Reserves’ Electronic Reserve Service. http://www.lib.umich.edu/reserves
Weekly lecture slides, additional resources for class assignments and weekly discussion topics will be posted on CTools by start of class. Students wishing to follow the lecture with the slides can download them from CTools. The CTools Portal URL is: http://ctools.umich.edu
Assignments and Deadlines
Class Participation (25%)
The overall success of the seminar depends on the active participation of all members of the class. Class participation is a sizable portion of the grade. Students should attend all classes and be prepared to enter into class discussions and to raise questions reflecting their reading and interests. Students are also expected to complete all required readings in advance of class. This is especially important since a portion of the class sessions will be discussions about the readings.
On the first class, each student will sign up with two other students to lead the discussion on the required readings for a given week. This is an opportunity to read one set of assigned readings more deeply than average, to work collaboratively on identifying themes or critical ideas, and to demonstrate understanding of one component of the course.
Literature Scan (15%)
The purpose of the individual project is to explore and find some interesting published literature on digital libraries and report on experiencing three important research resources.
Use the search and browse tools of three resource collections on a particular topic of your choosing.
Identify ten items of relevance to the topic (at least two from each source) from ACM Digital library. ACM Digital Library http://portal.acm.org/ [access via UM Library Search Tools]; D-Lib Magazine http://www.dlib.org/; and PADI--Preserving Access to Digital Information http://www.nla.gov.au/padi/.
Prepare full and consistent bibliographic citations for all ten items (using MLA, Chicago, or other appropriate format).
Write between one- (1) and five- (5) sentence description/summary of each source.
Write up to 1,000 words that states the topic of your search, describes the scope of the resources available on digital libraries, assesses their strength and weaknesses for digital library research, and reports on your experience using the resources.
Image Representation Database (25%)
The purpose of this project is to explore the various ways that photographic images are represented through digital library interfaces and to become adept at recognizing such variation. A secondary purpose of the project is to begin compiling a reference and research collection of digitized images that illustrates representation variation systematically. The mechanism we will use to complete the project is the collaborative construction of a database of image elements following a fairly complex scheme. The scheme captures descriptive information about each image, codes each image for its representation style, annotates the image in ways that connect the visual product with its associated metadata, and codes the image for the “significant properties” that it displays (or contains).
Each student will be responsible for identifying and coding data in the database for a minimum of 100 images. Half of the images will be chosen from collections in one of ten possible large scale digital libraries [a list will be distributed in class]. Half of the images may be chosen from any online collection of digitized photographs anywhere in the world, as long as certain criteria are met relating to the scale of the undertaking and the organizational source of the images. Prior to the start of the project, the instructor will provide definitions of key terms, illustrative examples of various representation styles, and detailed coding instructions for building the database. The deliverables for this assignment are coded data on an Excel template and a brief report describing the search strategy used to identify the 100 images, including a list of the digital library collections consulted. The results of the exercise will be presented in class.
Grading will be based on quantitative and qualitative assessments. Quantitative scores will be assigned based on the number of images completed and the completeness of the data compiled. A qualitative score will be assigned based on the level of judgment exercised in coding representation style and other subjective elements of the combined database.
Research Report (35%)
The research report for the course is an opportunity to break new conceptual ground on the nature and development of digital libraries. The basic research question is “Are Digital Libraries and Digital Archives the same thing?” The report will examine a particular facet of a digital library program or service and then describe that aspect in the larger context of the archival principles explored in the course, grounding the work on relevant published and informally posted information on the digital library. The paper will be between 5,000 and 8,000 words in length, will be properly documented with references and a bibliography, and will conform to a common structure. During the second week of the course, a list of digital library and archive programs will be distributed and discussed. Each student will choose one digital library/archive program to examine. All of the students who choose a particular digital program will constitute one or more teams varying in size from 3 to 6 individuals. You will do a much better job with your report if you work together as a team on your overall analysis. To encourage this collaboration, each analysis team is required to prepare and submit a single document listing published and unpublished documentation on the digital library/archive.
Students will negotiate within their respective teams over the choice of particular topic to investigate in greater detail. Copyright and intellectual property issues are out of scope for this research paper.
Topics relevant to this investigation include the following areas:
- Content development, including, accession and selection criteria, digitization guidelines or collection development focus
- Access systems, including metadata standards, processes, and products, end user interface design, productivity tools, usability assessment, revision history
- Infrastructure, including underlying repository system design, including software architecture, database design, etc.
- Preservation and collaboration, including repository/archive development, data sharing, perspectives on digital preservation versus digital access, staffing, cost analysis, benefit analysis, and other economic/budgetary issues.
Depending upon the size and individual interests of the group, the final report may parse the project in any number of ways. The final report must include at least the following five components:
- Executive summary with critical findings (1 to 2 paragraphs)
- Description of the origins, history, and purposes of the digital library (may be done collaboratively by the team for all reports from that team)
Report on the issue investigation, with the following components
- Definition of the issue
- Assessment of state of the art for the issue
- How the issue is represented in the digital library
- Reconciling state of the art with reality
- Trends and directions for the issue either in the digital library or more broadly
- Challenges you faced in your investigation (e.g., lack of documentation, outdated interface, etc.)
In pursuing your research, you may use any published or posted information available on the digital library and you may interview or correspond with appropriate staff who may have information to share. I encourage a strategy of broad "detective work" to investigate a given digital library program.
Deadlines and Due Dates
January 12 — First Class - Read required readings in advance
January 19 — No Class Today
January 26, 5:00 pm — Literature Scan Due
February 2, 5:00 pm — Individual DL Review Topics Due
February 19 — Form Digital Library Review Teams
February 20, 5:00 pm — Digital Library Review Bibliography Due
February 23 — Spring Break
March 13, 5:00 pm — Working outline of final report Due, if advice desired from instructor
March 22, 5:00 pm — Image Representation Database Entries Complete
April 13 — Final Report Presentations (clustered by investigation topic)
April 20 — Final Report Presentations (clustered by investigation topic)
April 22, 11:45 pm — Final Reports Due
- Class participation: 25%
- Literature scan: 15%
- Image representation project: 25%
- Research report: 35%