The 2nd TCDL: Day 2

Day two of the Texas Conference on Digital Libraries showed just how far TDL has come since last year. The presentations again featured stories of day-to-day practices in gathering materials, building collections, and sharing access. The more we share about daily practice the better we'll build practices and systems we can share.

Here's the summary of the second day presentations (day one summaries).

The University of North Texas is reaching out to the community to help build the metadata for their rescuing Texas history project. With about one hour of training and ongoing guidance volunteers are creating the metadata for the collection. The interaction among the volunteers when they work together is similar to a knitting circle. This is a good thing. It's not about control. Engaging and guiding volunteer efforts is how libraries can build collections.

At Texas A&M University, the preservation of the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin reveals just how much work is required to turn paper into a useful digital resource. The work of scanning, reviewing the quality of the results, managing the names of individual image files, creating the metadata, etc., is tedious. It's good to be reminded just how tedious it can be.

Texas Tech University has built a digital assembly line to step up to their scanning and digitization work load. They are diligent about documenting their practices, processes, and policies, and their experience provides a benchmark for how to build a high-quality, high-volume scanning center. One tip on improving worker ability is to use quality control as a learning tool. (As I fix my own errors I learn not to make them again.)

John Leggett, TDL co-director, showed a live demo of "Vireo", a Manakin front-end to TDL that supports the deposit of, and access to, electronic theses and dissertations (ETDs). ETDs are good candidates for an institutional repository (IR). They need to be published and curated. They are born digital. For the TDL to support all member institutions the repository must accommodate a variety of procedures, policies and practices. The Vireo ETD service does all this and more. It serves as a learning object itself. The software engineering tradeoffs required to put Vireo into production provide valuable lessons for future IR applications.

The development and growth in the Shibboleth Federation since last year is impressive; currently there are 13 member institutions. This year's presentation highlighted the work done in building the federation, establishing the social bonds of trust, and the requisite technical operations. Furthermore, the commitment of the TDL team to implement and support the Lone Star Education and Research Network (LEARN) demonstrates how the TDL is establishing itself. A technical "Shibboleth Install-fest" will be held 14-15 July at UTexas Austin. Contact TDL for more information.

The conference ended with a call for the TDL to consider being open to all Texans (for a start), not just those with academic affiliations. This proposal grows from Yochai Benkler's The Wealth of Networks argument about what can be called "long tail peer production". The Shibboleth work shows what it takes to provide secure, easy, and legal access to a federated library. I think it's work we should take on. And where are the resources for this?

The need for explicit resources to support the continuing development of the TDL was one theme of this year's conference. Now that projects and working groups are established and making progress, it is crucial to insure that they don't become "after work hours" activities. The visibiity of the TDL can help support its funding. That's my hope.

And finally, the plan is to hold the third TCDL held next year in conjunction with the 2009 Joint Conference on Digital Libraries, which will be held in Austin. More opportunities for social networking; more visibility for TDL. In this case more is better.

UPDATE: It was pointed out that I did not include a summary of the Vireo demonstration. Mea culpa. It was in my conference notes. Another lesson for me: haste makes waste.

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