Thursday, March 24, 2016

SimpleDL acquired by Sobek Digital Hosting and Consulting

Lehi, Utah – Digital Collections Reserve LLC has agreed to terms in the sale of SimpleDL™, their flagship digital library platform, to Sobek Digital Hosting and Consulting LLC, a digital library hosting and consulting company based in Jacksonville, Florida. The terms of the transaction have not been disclosed.  The transaction is expected to close on March 25, 2016.

Jon Ward, CEO of Digital Collections Reserve said, “We are excited about the work Sobek Digital Hosting and Consulting are doing in the digital library space, and feel they are a perfect suitor for our platform.  We feel they have what it takes to take our product to the next level and are excited for what this acquisition will do for our customers in improving their overall experience.”

Sobek Digital's CIO, Mark Sullivan added, "We are looking forward to working with the SimpleDL community.  This acquisition will extend the features of the overall suite of digital repository software offered to our combined customer base.  The new synergies and the resulting economies of scale from this transaction will result in increased service and response to the needs of all our customers."

SimpleDL™ was created in 2009 as a fresh, simple alternative to the bloated, tech-heavy digital library systems of the past.  This innovative system was designed to simplify the process librarians go through in uploading, editing, and managing their digital assets online to make them accessible to patrons across the world.  It was designed to provide a user-friendly, enjoyable experience for the librarian and patron alike. 

Sobek Digital Hosting and Consulting was formed as a partnership that combined over 30 years of library technology experience.  Sobek Digital hosts digital resources for libraries and museums and provides consulting on digital resource creation and digitization.  In addition, Sobek Digital supports a large and growing open source community of users for the popular SobekCM digital hosting software.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

5 Tips for Creating Discoverable Metadata

The wonderful thing about the digital age is the sheer magnitude of information and resources available for exploring, discovering, and learning.  The greatest challenge is the sheer magnitude of information and resources available for exploring, discovering, and learning.

For information seekers, it’s daunting sifting through the endless amounts of information and frustrating trying to decipher between good information and fallacies.  It’s aggravating when in that search, they find themselves trudging through murky paths that lead to dead ends. 

For content providers, it’s a constant battle trying to assist seekers in locating their carefully curated items.  It’s a game of hot and cold as they strive to lead them from one step to the next in their exploration.  It involves massaging and manipulating information in an effort to optimize placement within major search engines.  It often requires finding collaborative arrangements in order to aggregate their content with others to effectively expand their reach.   

Metadata librarians are on the front lines in this battle.  They represent an under-appreciated, yet critically important cog in the battle to make information openly available.   We are apt to appreciate the content, but slow to remember the individuals who spend countless hours sifting through the items, digging up information, and masterfully organizing that information to provide seekers with the best chance of discovery.
In an effort to understand this process better, I reached out to a couple of top-notch Metadata Librarians to provide some insights and best practices for creating discoverable metadata. 

Here are some tips:

1.  Think globally

Success in content curation and delivery is often measured by the expanse of its reach.  Fortunately, the Internet knows no boundaries.  Once online, content can theoretically reach a global audience.  However, in order for those items to be found, it is important to consider whether or not the descriptive data is understandable to a non-local person.  Think about what additional context may be included in order to clarify as much detail as possible. 

Be sure to take precautions as to which fields would most appropriately contain that information.  An overly descriptive “Title” field may hinder rather than help your cause.  The “Description” field would be the most appropriate for extensive detail and context.

2.  Pay attention to detail

Anne-Marie Hamilton Brehm from the HendersonDistrict Public Library in Nevada said: 

“You have to be a good editor with a sharp eye and determination to produce high quality results. Nobody’s perfect, but you have to be willing to learn and adapt and make things right.”

Part of that adaptation may require looking in greater depth into the context of the item.  For example, you may have an old photo with some metadata wrapped around it.  Upon further inspection of the subjects within the photo, you may find that the particular dress standards may not be consistent with the date.  Or, you may notice landmarks or other clues that might provide additional detail related to the location at which it was created.  Further investigation and information finding may be merited. 

In addition, it is important to inspect your metadata before loading it into your digital library platform to ensure consistency within metadata fields.  For example, are all names in a consistent format such as Last Name, First Name or are there some that start with the first name?  Given that much of the information contained has been entered by humans, human error is common.  Most digital library systems will allow for the creation of collection-based controlled vocabularies to help in this inspection.  However, it is still worth a glance-over to ensure all is correct. 

3.  Adhere to professionally accepted standards

Anna Neatrour, Digital Librarian at the J.Willard Marriott Library at the University of Utah stated:

“Keeping track of standards and having a good understanding of how metadata can be enhanced, both at a local level and in a discovery system can be very useful. As we move towards linked data, using linked data compatible controlled vocabularies becomes more and more important.”

One of the greatest challenges with the Open Archives Initiative has been the consistency, or lack thereof, of field names, terms, references, etc.  Generally speaking, people are quite inconsistent in how they describe or reference things.  One data set may describe Baltimore, Maryland as Baltimore, MD..  Another may spell it out completely.  Likewise, the author Charles Dickens may be referred to as “Dickens, Charles”, or “Dickens, Charles J.H.” or “Charles John Huffam Dickens”, or “Dickens, Charles John Huffam”.  There are a myriad of ways to describe the same thing.  Researches are often challenged by these inconsistencies.  Standardized methods are always appreciated and greatly enhance efficiencies in research. 

For data aggregation and harvesting purposes, it is important to seek a standardized method for describing certain aspects of your items.  The Library of Congress is a great place to start when seeking standardized terms.  You can find standardized subject headings, name authorities, etc. to assist in your efforts.  For field names, standards have been created to encourage consistency.  The most common, referred to as Dublin Core, was developed as part of the Dublin CoreMetadata Initiative (DCMI).

Staying current on all standards is essential to success in this area.  Anne-Marie Hamilton-Brehm mentioned:

“Access to collections depends on adherence to standard naming and coding conventions and file formats. You not only have to research and apply standards, but you have to update your knowledge continuously over time as standards and markup languages evolve.”

4.  Focus on Curation

According to Anne-Marie Hamilton Brehm: 

“Placing a collection and its materials in historical context with engaging descriptions helps you connect with your patrons. Providing additional details about images, documents, and other historical materials will encourage visitors to browse and may inspire them to donate related historical materials.”

The bottom line is, the more information and context you can provide, the more engaging will be your materials.  That engagement will open up the minds of your patrons toward additional discovery and, hopefully, contribution of additional information and materials. 

5.  Leverage Technology

There exists a wide array of technological solutions to assist in the process of digital collection creation and curation.  Here are a few items worth mentioning.

Digital Library Platforms
There are many platforms available for archiving and displaying your digital content.  They are quite diverse and are called different things depending upon their core functionalities.  They may be referred to as Digital Library Systems, Digital Asset Management Systems, Internal Repositories, Digital Management Systems, etc. 

If your primary intention is to make your digital collections available for public consumption and dissemination, a Digital Library platform should do the trick.

In deciding on a platform, first and foremost, pick a system that is user-friendly and engaging on the part of the patron and the librarian.  Digital librarians should be focused on what they do best—the creation and curation of digital content.  Loading the materials into your online platform should be of minor concern.  Patrons should find their way into your collections and around them with ease and simplicity.  A buttery-smooth experience will only enhance their engagement and magnify the appreciation for and contribution to your various collections.

Many librarians are concerned about the technological expertise required to implement some of these systems.  Particularly since high-quality IT talent is difficult to come by, particularly within a library setting.  An open-source solution, though appealing, may be too difficult to implement and manage as a result. 

An easy-to-use, out-of-the-box solution worth considering is Simple Digital Library or SimpleDL.  They are focused on simplicity and ease of use for librarians and patrons alike.  Implementation is immediate and the ability to customize and tailor toward a specific look and feel is slick and easy.  They have a quality staff that is able to design and implement a personalized interface for you at a very reasonable cost. 

Regarding this service, Ellen Dubinsky, Digital Librarian at the Clement C Maxwell Library said:

“SimpleDL has given us the ideal platform to present our digital image gallery—beautiful display, easy-to-use interface on both the front-end and back-end, and great tech support.”

As a metadata librarian, it is of paramount importance to familiarize yourself and become expert in the use of spreadsheet applications. 

The beauty with spreadsheets is that they effectively divide and categorize all of the metadata in an easy to use, easy to review interface.  In addition, they improve efficiencies tremendously through their inherent fill-down tricks and various functions. 

As an example, recently I was creating some metadata for some individual census records and realized that the best title for each item was going to be the last name followed by the first name and age.  The trouble was that there were hundreds of records and the data I wanted to include in the title field were in individual columnar fields.  It would have taken me hours to type each title by hand. 

Instead, I utilized a concatenation function in Microsoft Excel to bring all the data from the respective fields into a new field named “Title”.

The data looked like this before:


The function I used to bring the data from columns E, F, and G together into D was:

=E2&”, “&F2&”, age “&G2

The result was as follows:

By copying and pasting the formula down to the bottom of the list, I was able to quickly and easily have a title field that I wanted. 

This, of course, is one of many tricks that may be utilized with many spreadsheet applications to make working with data easier and more efficient.

Other Tools
Anna Neatrour offers a couple more technologies worth considering when working with Metadata:


“As I’ve been working as a metadata librarian, I’ve grown to appreciate the ways that metadata can be extracted and transformed through leveraging things like XSLT. If I was starting from the beginning, I would have learned XSLT earlier because I would have been much more efficient in some of my earlier work!”


“Tools such as OpenRefine are becoming an essential part of a metadata librarian’s work now. Practices for descriptive metadata often evolve over time, and it is often time consuming to go back and review and enhance metadata in older collections. Having clear documentation and training for people developing descriptive metadata is key in getting it right the first time.”

If you have any other tips or tricks you would like to share with the community, please comment below.  We would love to get your thoughts and feedback on this important topic.

Friday, October 16, 2015

"Study the past, if you would define the future."

During my college years, I had the great pleasure of spending a summer in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  Being an enthusiast of outdoor adventure and having spent many days throughout my life among the great valleys and peaks that define the area, I have a great respect for and feeling of awe that accompanies me while there.  Many of life’s most poignant lessons have been taught to me among the Tetons.

During this particular summer, I was assisting guests on a scenic float trip down the Snake River that meandered through Grand Teton National Park.  I was intrigued to observe these people and listen to their stories as they experienced these natural wonders.  I had become well acquainted with the phenomena that created the pristine mountains and valleys; had familiarized myself with the plants and wildlife that resided therein; and became a student of the local history that surrounded the area.  I enjoyed sharing these details with my guests and answering their questions as best I could.  Many of the experiences from that summer and other summers, falls, winters and springs throughout my life are recorded within a collection of journals I have kept.

One of my primary duties included shuttling the guests along with their raft and guide to the beginning of the excursion, helping them launch, and then proceeding to the takeout point to wait for their arrival, an obvious process for most.  However, as I was prepared to launch one such trip, one of the guests was trying to determine what they should bring along with them and asked, “So, do we takeout here as well?”

Hopefully, by the end of the trip, this guest gained a valuable understanding regarding rivers.  In the natural world, unlike the “Jungle Cruise” at Disney Land, the river continues onward in constant progression.  It is always changing and adapting to natural circumstances.  The river water does not circle around and around the same course day in and day out.  Rather, it continues on in constant progression, carrying the sediments from the beginning and depositing them along the way to fortify the future. 

Similarly, the progress of human civilization does not and should not remain channeled in a circular course.  Rather, it is and should be progressing onward and upward as we adhere to basic principles that keep us on track.

However, too often, we find ourselves trapped, learning and relearning difficult lessons and principles that have already been taught in the fiery crucible of human experience.  It’s tragic that the furnace has to be relit in seeming perpetuity to reteach those same courses.    

As George Santayana famously quipped: “Those who don’t learn history, are doomed to repeat it.” 

As a society, it is ever so important that we take time to study and understand the past.  So much has been written.  Even more has been said.  The more time we take to discover the lives and experiences, the thoughts and perspectives of those who came before us, the more likely we will be to avoid making their same mistakes, to build upon their successes, and to appreciate the foundational strength they provided.   

So, what resources are available to help us explore the past?

Your local library is a great place to start.  Beyond the plethora of various reading materials, from books, to journals, to magazines that we might expect to find, many libraries maintain vast collections of archival materials such as old documents, manuscripts, photos, videos, or audio files that are available for public perusal.  

These materials may be found at public libraries, educational institutions, and various government libraries.

Historically, they have been difficult to locate and have required extensive hours of exploration before locating the items or topics in which you have interest. 

In today’s world, however, that process has become significantly easier.  Over the last few years, libraries have begun digitizing these materials in hopes of making them more readily available for public dissemination. 

Through the use of technology, these materials have become much more findable.  Through internet search engines, you are able to quickly locate items relating to various historical figures or topics and the institutions or individuals maintaining those items.  In addition, through the various digital library platforms those entities employ, you can quickly view and search through the materials to discover and explore the past in greater depth.

Thankfully, efforts are being made by the owners of these materials to make them more widely available.  They recognize that greater value in historical scholarship is garnered through collaborative efforts.

Initiatives such as the Open Archives Initiative are helping to bring materials together in a succinct and standard format.  Various entities such as the Digital PublicLibrary of America with it’s various regional hubs such as the Mountain WestDigital Library are greatly aiding this effort by bringing together in one the various historical collections currently owned or hosted by separate, disparate institutions. 

Whether your interest in the past is founded in scholarly research, personal curiosity, or some other motivation, visiting your local, educational, and/or governmental library will provide the guidance and resource necessary to launch your exploration into the past.

As Confucius has been credited with saying, “Study the past, if you would define the future.”

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Nevada State Archives celebrates 50 years with Launch of Digital Collections Website

The digital website is a treasure-trove of historical documents and images related to Nevada's history that contains nearly 40,000 items including:
  • Historical Land Patents
  • Census Records
  • Territorial Histories
  • State Histories
  • Various state publications
  • Etc.
You may peruse the collections free of charge by going to

Here is a portion of the official Press Release, courtesy of the Nevada State Library, Archives, and Public Records:


October 8, 2015
State Archives Celebrates 50 Years
with Launch of New Website

Carson City, NV – October is American Archives Month and it’s Nevada Archives’ 50thanniversary.  In recognition and celebration, the Nevada Department of Administration’s Division of State Library, Archives and Public Records is proud to announce the launch of a new Digital Collections website. The website showcases both Nevada’s history with documents dating back to 1851, as well as current state, county and local government reports:

“This is the biggest thing to happen to State Archives and State Library since we merged in 1979,” said State Librarian Daphne DeLeon. “Fifty years ago the state archives program didn’t exist. Old records were kept in basements and attic rooms, and were nearly impossible to find. Now while the original archives are safe and secure in a protected environment, the public can view these fragile, historical documents on line.”  

The Archives’ component of the website is called “Historical Nevada Collections,” and has original and microfilmed documents from Nevada Territory and early statehood including letters, telegrams and court cases, as well as official reports on the military, mines, mental hospital, state police, prison and public schools. The historical collection also includes all patents for land sold by the state government to private individuals from 1865 to 2007. Furthermore, it has a complete collection on Sarah Winnemucca compiled from records in the National Archives, the Library of Congress and newspapers from Boston, Nevada, Idaho and Washington.

The Library’s component features the more recent publications produced by Nevada state, county and local government agencies and are featured in the “Electronic State Publications” portion of the website. This is now a convenient one-stop location to browse statewide agency reports covering a range of topics such as agriculture, healthcare, wildlife, and law:
To celebrate its 50th Anniversary, and Governor proclaimed State Archives Day in Nevada, attend an open house at the State Library and Archives building to visit its research room and hear talks on Nevada History, MondayOctober 262 – 4 p.m. 100 N. Stewart St., Carson City, NV. For more information, please call (775) 684-3362.


More information regarding the 50th anniversary can be found in the following newspaper write-up:

Monday, October 12, 2015

Promoting Use of Your Digital Content

The Digital Public Library of America, through their Public Library Partnerships Project (PLPP),  has put together a curriculum "to provide digital skills training for public librarians and connect them sustainably with state and regional resources for digitizing, describing, and exhibiting their cultural heritage content.

This is the 6th module in the series and is entitled "Promoting Use of Your Digital Content." It was presented by Anna Fahey-Flynn from the Boston Public Library and Digital Commonwealth.

It covers:
  • identifying audiences
  • media outreach
  • social media strategies
  • curated projects
  • measuring use

This content is provided courtesy of the Public Library Partnerships Project.