Digital Research & Publishing Category


Shy of a dozen

This semester, DLS is happily hosting eleven SLIS digital librarianship fellows. Some faces are familiar ones, as several fellows from the first cohort have stayed on to either finish up previous projects or embark on new digital adventures. Many second-cohort fellows have begun their assignments, as well, making the DLS project room full of bodies hard at work!

As the newest staff member in Digital Library Services, being surrounded by a veritable army of fellows seems quite normal. It’s already clear to me that each individual’s unique set of skills and qualities have helped DLS grow in ways far beyond staff numbers. Instead of pondering implications of the inevitable fellow exodus after they all graduate, for now we’ll just enjoy their dedication and cooperation in helping DLS staff curate the Iowa Digital Library.

Experience each fellow’s trials, tribulations, and triumphs along with them through their weblogs:

Name: Mark Anthoney
Projects: Flood of 2008 photographs and audio; Fanzine collection
Blog: Virtually a Librarian

Name: Shawn Averkamp
Projects: Institutional repository implementation; Political election videos
Blog: Digital Library Seminar

Name: Chris Ehrman
Projects: Daily Iowan images; Geological research slides
Blog: IMLS Project Blog

Name: Elizabeth Hoover de Galvez
Project: Iowa rural women photographs and documents
Blog: A Student’s Perspective

Name: Amber Jansen
Project: Medieval manuscript images
Blog: Fuzzy Technowledge

Name: Joanna Lee
Project: E-journal hosting implementation
Blog: Digital Cardigan

Name: Ian Mason
Project: Geological research slides
Blog: Ian’s Digital Weblog

Name: Rebecca Ramsey
Project: UI musical recordings
Blog: Rebecca’s Digital Library Adventures

Name: Amber Skoglund
Project: Rare medical images
Blog: SLIS Fellowship Blog

Name: Bryan Stusse
Project: Oral history migration
Blog: IMLS Fellowship Blog

Name: Minglu Wang
Projects: Federal government poster images; Medieval manuscript images
Blog: Learning to be a Digital Librarian

Anne Shelley, Digital Projects Librarian




New arrivals

Congratulations to Jen Wolfe, and welcome to the world, Audrey and Calvin!!!

Born: Sunday, Aug 17th, 10:23 am/10:24 am


Calvin James, 6lbs. 13 oz

Audrey Claire, 4lbs. 7oz


–Mark F. Anderson

Digital Initiatives Librarian


Nurturing a sustainable program

As I prepare to go on leave for the next few months, I’ve been relieved to see how well we’ve been able to plan for my absence, thanks to the Libraries’ ongoing commitment to growing a sustainable digital initiatives program. While a leave of this length would have been detrimental to our progress back when DLS was in its infancy, investments in cross-training and position reallocation over the past couple of years have given us the flexibility to increase the distribution of metadata duties throughout the library.

Within DLS, new staff members Wendy Robertson and Anne Shelley provide specialized cataloging expertise gained from their backgrounds in serials and electronic resources management and in music librarianship. Thanks to the University’s internal internship program, Christine Tade from Central Technical Services and Ellen Jones from Circulation have received training on all aspects of digital library work, with a particular forcus in metadata. Cataloging staff from CTS have added production work on metadata projects to their other duties. And we’re even delegating assistance with metadata training and support within the Digital Library Fellowship program, with plans to capitalize on the hard-won expertise of last year’s fellows by pairing them with members of this fall’s incoming cohort.

Together, these staff and students will be taking good care of Iowa Digital Library and its users by continuing to create resources that are easy to find, manage and share.

–Jen Wolfe
Metadata Librarian, Digital Library Services


From trio to septet

1469.jpgToday the Digital Library Services staff page was updated. Wow. The department has grown from three full-time staff to seven in the past year.

The latest addition to our staff is Anne Shelley, a special projects librarian devoted to music and fine arts digital collection building. She started on July 1 and will spearhead work on the forthcoming Ignaz Pleyel digital collection, 200 works of historical sheet music by the famous 18th century composer whose scores are housed as the Rita Benton Music Library. She will also work to develop Iowa Sounds, a collection of audio recordings ranging from musical performances to radio shows with Iowa ties. Anne holds a B.M. in Music from Iowa State University (2004) and a M.A. in Library and Information Science from the University of Iowa (2008).

Last month, Keo Hoang joined the department to provide support for and supervision of the growing Digital Initiatives Project Room as the department this fall welcomes a new cohort of Digital Librarianship Fellowship Students from the School of Library and Information Science. Late last year, Wendy Robertson joined DLS to help expand support of electronic scholarship, including developing an infrastructure to support locally published e-journals and establishing a repository and streamlined workflows for faculty publications such as e-books. Wendy’s expertise in data analysis has allowed DLS to take a big leap forward on those digital collections that have required batch loading, migrating from one system to another, and aggregating with other information resources. Also last year, Bobby Duncan joined DLS to assist with image processing and quality control. Founding members of Digital Library Services include digital initiatives librarian Mark Anderson and metadata librarian Jen Wolfe.

With double the staff—and with the help of several digital librarianship fellows—we are working hard to develop the Iowa Digital Library into a robust repository.

—Nicole Saylor
Head, Digital Library Services


New staff member

Digital Library Services welcomes Keo Hoang as its new Digital Initiatives Support Specialist.  Keo comes to DLS from Hardin Library for the Health Sciences and the Information Arcade, and he returns to the third floor of Main Library where he spent several years with Desktop Support.

Keo will be providing support for and supervision of the growing Digital Initiatives Project Room as the department this fall welcomes a new cohort of Digital Librarianship Fellowship Students from the School of Library and Information Science.

He is an avid gardener whose home is included in this year’s Project GREEN Garden Tour.  Welcome, Keo!

–Mark F. Anderson
Digital Initiatives Librarian


Making tracks at Indy

Just returned from Indianapolis and Midwest Users Group Conference for CONTENTdm, the digital asset management software that we use to power the Iowa Digital Library.  This was the third annual meeting, but really the first year that it’s been truly regional, attendance-wise.  It was really positive to hear how numbers had grown in those three years.  In ’06, there were 30 attendees, and 60 last year.  This year, 101.  It shows a growing user base that will hopefully have a greater influence on the system’s growth and development.  More regional meetings are planned for this year including ones in the southeast and mid-Atlantic.

We received an update from Claire Cocco, CONTENTdm’s product manager on some exciting enhancements to expect later this year, and Glee Willis delivered a great keynote on day two, encouraging digital libraries to stretch the system through customizations in order to best serve information users, showing examples from some of the leaders in the CONTENTdm community.

I particularly enjoyed the University of Louisville’s session on using the MyMaps feature of Google Maps to add overlays as browse interfaces through which to enter cartographic resources in CONTENTdm.  DLS’s own Wendy Robertson spoke at a presentation about workflows for migrating MARC catalog records to CONTENTdm, which was well received by the audience.

I participated on panels discussing digitizing scrapbooks and yearbooks and using CONTENTdm for art collections, and also brought along Jen Wolfe’s eye-catching poster depicting how DLS handles scrapbooks.  Nicole Saylor served on the conference’s planning committee and Brian Thompson attended the meeting as a way to become more familiar with the system and its community of users.  So, LIT was well represented.

There was even talk of an upper-Midwest CONTENTdm users group getting together later this year.  It’s nice to see this kind of organization, but my hope is that CONTENTdm users can maintain a similar level of activity and working together between meetings, perhaps by blowing the dust off the user group wiki, which can help all levels of implementation make the best use of the system.

One of the most beneficial pieces of the meeting was meeting new people and talking about the different ways in which we’re using the system for digital library activities.  We enjoyed some good food and a great record store in downtown Indianapolis (sorry Jen, never made it to Trader Joe’s), but now it’s back to work.

–Mark F. Anderson
Digital Initiatives Librarian


Iowa Digital Library now contains 100,000 items


The University of Iowa Digital Library now contains 100,000 items. To mark this milestonetemp, a 13th-century Bible manuscript page from the Special Collections Department of the UI Libraries has been scanned and uploaded to represent the transformation of information storage over the centuries, from handmade parchment to zeroes and ones.

“Digital versions of rare records and documents bring new attention to the physical artifacts that have made up human communication in the past,” said Matthew Brown, director of the UI Center for the Book. “The Iowa Digital Library is exactly the kind of teaching tool that alerts students to meanings of the medium, whether it be paper or stone, handwriting or typeface, engraving or photograph.”

“As scholarship increasingly moves online, it’s essential that we follow suit with our physical collections,” said Nicole Saylor, head of Digital Library Services. “By increasing accessibility to the UI’s rare and unique materials through digitization, the Libraries will continue to be relevant and vital participants in the University’s research and educational processes.”

See the full press release here.


Fellow travelers

It can be hard staying current in the emerging field of metadata librarianship, so when I heard that instructors from Brown University’s Women Writers Project would be giving a nearby workshop on TEI, the Text Encoding Initiative XML schema, I immediately signed up. Besides learning how to encode historic texts for possible digital humanities initiatives, I also hoped to stay a step ahead of our Digital Librarianship Fellows, who are eager to be mentored on XML projects for DLS. Alas, I discovered that wouldn’t be the case when I heard that all ten Fellows would be joining me in Urbana, Ill., site of the workshop, where we would learn the schema together.

Trading in my mentoring duties for those of chaperone turned out not to be particularly taxing, as the Fellows were model students. When we weren’t in workshop sessions — learning the metadata schema itself, along with XML editing tools, exstensible stylesheets, and TEI delivery applications — they could usually be found holed up with their laptops, designing database projects for school and other studious activities. (The reports of beer funneling back at the hotel were, I’m sure, only ugly rumors.)

Being in close quarters with the group for three days wasn’t a problem either, as I had recently built up a high Fellow tolerance. Back in December, we had no sooner bid farewell to that semester’s Fellows than we were notified that all four of them would be returning to our department in January, along with four more of their cohort, to spend most of their collective 160 (!!) hours per week in DLS. This influx in staff has necessitated a more collaborative approach this time around, as the Fellows have stepped up to help design and shape their experiences on projects ranging from traditional collection-building work to large-scale data migration and application development initiatives. See the blogs below for first-hand accounts of their journeys to digital librarianship.

–Jen Wolfe
Metadata Librarian, Digital Library Services

DLS Digital Librarianship Fellows: Spring 2008
Shawn Averkamp
Project: data migration – Traveling Culture: Circuit Chautauqua printed ephemera

Blog: Digital Library Seminar

Chris Ehrman
Project: digital collection – Iowa City Foreign Relations Council videos

Blog: IMLS Project Blog

Amber Jansen
Project: digital collection – medieval manuscripts
Blog: Fuzzy Technowledge

Joanna Lee
Project: data migration – archival finding aids
Blog: techno.log

Jane Monson
Project: data migration – archival finding aids
Blog: Notes From the Library

Bryan Stusse
Project: digital collection – Artists Television Network videos; application development – SmartSearch enhancements
Blog: IMLS Fellowship Blog

Jill Wehrheim
Project: data migration – Dada Digital Library rare monographs and serials
Blog: Jill’s Weblog

Sarah Zdenek
Project: data migration – Daily Palette text and videos
Blog: Sarah Zdenek’s Weblog


Educating the 21st century librarian

Funded by a Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian grant , our new digital library fellows have been tracking their progress with a suitably 21st century learning tool: the blog. During the next two years of their program, these students will be blogging their way through a series of half-time clinical rotations in various departments and programs around campus. The four fellows who have chosen to start their work projects in DLS will learn how to build a digital collection from the ground up: from artifact selection to production to collection launch and promotion. By documenting their experiences online, they’ll be better able to articulate what they’ve learned, while also creating a record to help current and future students navigate their way through similar situations.

We encourage you to bookmark the sites below and enjoy vicariously as our intrepid fellows battle forces like scope creep, copyright restrictions, and obsolete AV formats on their paths to becoming digital librarians.

— Jen Wolfe
Metadata Librarian

Student: Shawn Averkamp
Project: African American women students at The University of Iowa, 1900-1950
Blog: Digital Library Seminar
“I learned from Wikipedia that scope creep ‘refers to uncontrolled changes in a project’s scope. This phenomenon can occur when the scope of a project is not properly defined, documented, or controlled. It is generally considered a negative occurrence to be avoided.’ Over the course of the next week, I would learn how easily scope creep could, uh, creep into a digital library project.”

Student: Jane Monson
Project: Recipe pamphlets in the Chef Louis Szathmary Collection of Culinary Arts
Blog: Notes From the Library
“Now begins the time consuming task of poring over the thousands of pamphlets, in search of the most interesting and informative ones to include. It feels a little like digging through a treasure chest. I was very excited about a Wrigley Spearmint gum pamphlet from 1915, which features a ‘spear-man’ reciting nursery rhymes. I’m trying to muster the same enthusiasm for the kitschy ads of the 50s and 60s…they’re less unique, and I’m easily distracted by more arcane products like the Air-O-Mix ‘Whip All’ food aerator (which, according to early 20th century experts, makes food somehow magically more nutritious).”

Student: Bryan Stusse
Project: Artists’ Television Network
Blog: IMLS Fellowship
“The most significant problem facing this project is that of copyright. I searched to print materials associated with this collection for a few days and finally came across some University of Iowa documents from when the collection was being built and funding secured stating that artists would retain all copyrights unless otherwise noted on the tapes. I did find release waivers from Gregory Battcock and Steven Poser, who were involved in discussions and interviews. Basically this means I will need to start contacting artists directly for reproduction rights.”

Student: Jill Wehrheim
Projects: Iowa Civil War Diaries; Iowa Railroad Depots
Blog: Jill’s Weblog
“The biggest challenge I’ve encountered so far (besides being from Illinois and having to take a little extra time learning about towns and counties in Iowa) has been figuring out where towns are that are not on current maps. Of the approximate 60 photos of depots in Dallas County, there are about 10 towns with depot pictures that are not on current maps. Although this makes my task harder and take longer, I have enjoyed the challenge of tracking down where the depots once existed.”


Why digital collections matter

Craig W. Spotser, A.B., Iowa City, Iowa, 1927

On my drive to work this week the radio told of more soldiers dying in Iraq. Soon, an ambulance whizzed by me—off to save another life. Talk about work that really matters, I thought, as I tootled toward the University of Iowa Main Library for a day of helping lead the charge to digitize a bunch of cool stuff—old photographs, correspondence, maybe postcards or some scrapbooks from library archives. While my work as the new head of Digital Library Services hardly compares to the life-and-death heroics of soldiers or EMTs, I still like to hope it matters. I know it is a whole lot of fun—sure beats flipping pancakes for hire or writing a first-person dog column (“Hello, I’m Scruffy…”), gigs I’ll admit to having some experience with in the distant past.

When I arrive at work it’s not long before I am reminded—repeatedly—why creating these digital collections matters. A quick disclaimer: The bragging I’m about to do has next to nothing to do with me. I just got here. The credit goes to my predecessor Paul Soderdahl, metadata librarian Jen Wolfe, and digital initiatives librarian Mark Anderson in Digital Library Services. The UI Libraries online collection now has more than 75,000 digital objects thanks to their work and that of Nancy E. Kraft, who heads the Iowa Heritage Digital Collection (IHDC), plus the amazing contributions from a wide range of record holders. Impressive, especially if you consider they began this effort less than two years ago.

Online use statistics are the easiest way to see that digital collections are vastly expanding the library’s reach. Not surprisingly, on-campus use is high. More surprising are numbers like this: In April alone, Iowa Public Schools users approached our digital collections 4,834 times. As Mark aptly points out, that is a hit about every 10 minutes, 24 hours a day, during the entire month of April. We not only get hits from places like Iowa State University (more than 6,500 times in April) but from thousands of far-away places like Poland (2,400 hits) and Tuvalu (500), a Polynesian island nation halfway between Hawaii and Australia. Since I arrived I’ve heard a steady stream of stories about how online collections provide instant answers to questions that once took much, much longer. Questions like, where was the old Dresden china store located in Iowa City? Check out the Iowa City Town and Campus Scenes Collection to view a picture of the storefront.

But the most compelling evidence of the power of digital collections arises from stories of people like Craig D. Spotser of Texas. His email, forwarded to us by Susan Kuecker at the African American Historical Museum and Cultural Center of Iowa, started this way: “GOD…..This is a picture of my Grandfather. He passed away when my father was a small boy. I only had a small picture of him, far way, standing in front of his car and home in Iowa. My father, Craig W. Spotser, has never seen a picture of him that close up, but he passed away in February 2002. This is amazing. How can I obtain a copy of the photo of my Grandfather? I was surfing the web, and this is the first time that I have seen this picture. I almost started crying. I look almost identical to him, and so does my son.”

The spitting image looking back at Craig Spotser was C.W. Spotser, a professor at University of Iowa in the 1920s. The picture was found in a scrapbook kept by Althea “Bee” Moore,” an undergraduate student at UI from 1924-1928. Late last year, library assistant Christine Tade worked with the scrapbook owners at the African American Historical Museum and Cultural Center of Iowa to work out the logistics of sending it to UI Libraries for digitization and preservation work. Christine’s resulting digital project was the digitized scrapbook.

This discovery, along with additional help from University Archives archivist David McCartney and others, enabled the Spotser family to locate their grandfather’s grave. They plan to visit soon to make sure he has a headstone, said Chris Spotser, Craig’s brother. If he doesn’t, the family is going to make sure he gets one. I know all of this because Chris called today, out of the blue, to thank us for sending a copy of the photo. “You guys are doing some fantastic work! Even if it’s just helping one person, we’re extremely grateful.” This is why we librarians love what we do, and I’m just grateful to become a part of what’s happening with digital collections at Iowa.

–Nicki Saylor
Head, Digital Library Services