December 5, 2020

New Case Study: “Digital Collections as Research Infrastructure”

A new case study shared by EDUCAUSE today about an internal digitization program at the National Library of Wales that offers access to over 2,000,000 pages of historic Welsh newspapers, journals, and archives.

Direct to Full Text Case Study by Lorna Hughes, University of Wales Chair in Digital Collections, National Library of Wales.

From the Case Study:

Researchers in the arts and humanities today take for granted a wealth of digital content as the basis for their scholarship. The use of digital collections — primary sources that have been digitized; online reference resources, including catalogues and scholarly journals; and born-digital material from publishers — is now a critical part of the scholarly life cycle, as is the underlying digital infrastructure that delivers this content to the widest possible audience.

This dependency on digital content makes us all digital scholars in one way or another. A recent Research Information Network report, Reinventing Research? Information Practices in the Humanities, noted that all scholars surveyed for the report “access journals through their library’s databases, most frequently mentioning JSTOR.” As our development of digital collections reaches maturity, an understanding is emerging that our digital content is in many respects a living entity — one that is constantly shifting and being repurposed and reused. It is also fragile and must be sustained to remain usable.

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To make the case for sustaining existing digital content and developing new digital collections, we must demonstrate their importance as a key component of the scholarly research ecosystem. The best way to advocate for this is to gather evidence that shows digital content’s impact, value, and transformative effect on research, teaching, and public engagement — developing scholarship that is more than just efficient but that in fact helps formulate new research questions.

Direct to Full Text of Case Study

A Few Comments

While this case study focuses on the creation and use of digital collections in the higher ed. community it’s very important to remember that some (many?) of these same collections have value to other groups as well as individuals.

This is easy to understand and work towards but it can also be easy to forget.

One organized group that would likely find value in many digitized resources being made available by universities, libraries, etc. of is the K-12 community (librarians, students, teachers, administrators) and is even more reason for these two groups begin communicating as much as possible with one another. 

People have no chance of using what they aren’t aware*** of and it has been our experience that a great deal of wonderful digitized content could gain even more users if the material/projects were better known outside of the university and intended user groups. In other words, this is yet another example where marketing and promotion is crucial.

We try to share a lot of newly digitized content on infoDOCKET but even spending a good portion of the day looking for it we still miss a huge chunk (much more than we are able to share) since it’s often not well promoted, promoted at all, or not easy to discover using other methods.

You have to wonder about the future of both large and small digitization projects if past and current projects don’t get attention and use.

*** Yes, Google can provide access but only if:

  • The precise keywords are entered and then Google ranks the results in the top seven or so. These days the deep web or “Invisible Web” for most people is material beyond the first six or seven results and for sure every result beyond the first page. Every good result can’t be in the first seven or eight results. Search optimization is an option but it can be very expensive and/or time consuming and good results for specific material available on Monday can be gone by Tuesday.
  • The searcher gets lucky (it can happen) but don’t plan on it.
  • The searcher can take advantage of advanced search tools and create a precise search for what they are looking for. A little education can make this a real possibility.
  • Of course, often a searcher doesn’t know what they are looking for.

We continue to believe that libraries, on a local level, as well as library users (with the help of the library) should be acquiring these resources (very often free) and building local collections for staff, library users, and themselves.

We also believe that metadata, if used correctly, can also help with some of these issues and aid in discovery and usage.

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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