Saturday, May 05, 2007

CALL 2007 Pre-Conference: Managing Digital Collections

The 2007 conference of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries begins this weekend in Ottawa and continues until Wednesday, May 9, 2007.

Today, there was a pre-conference session on Creating and Managing a Digital Collection Project: From policy to technical requirements.

There were 3 presentations:
  • Sandra Wilkins, Law Librarian, University of British Columbia, described the British Columbia Reports Digitization Project: "The British Columbia Reports is a law report series that was first published in 1884 by the Law Society of British Columbia, with judgments dating back to 1867. The series ceased publication in 1948. This collection includes the full text of all decisions published in the series. The Reports, as a body of work, contains important social and legal history of this province, in addition to charting the development of British Columbia law through the course of its publishing history. The British Columbia Reports is an important resource for legal researchers, historians, genealogists, and British Columbians in general, due to the fact that it provides a collection of unique primary information on society and individuals living in British Columbia in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries."
  • Anne Crocker, Gerard V. LaForest Law Library, University of New Brunswick, described the Allan Legere Digital Archive. It is an archive of documents and images related to the crimes, capture and trial of serial killer Allan Joseph Legere. Having escaped from a maximum security institution in New Brunswick in 1989, Legere was at large for 7 months, committed four brutal muders, terrorizing the Miramichi region of the province, and was the subject of the largest manhunt in RCMP history. His trial in 1991 was the first in which the new science of DNA typing was used to obtain a criminal conviction in Canada and was therefore a landmark in Canadian legal history.
  • William Wueppelmann, Electronic Systems Specialist, Canadiana.org , took attendees through a discussion of the technical and organizational issues involved in the planning and execution of a digitization project of any size. Canadiana.org is the creator of Early Canadiana Online which is a searchable collection of more than 2.5 million pages of Canada's printed heritage including official publications from early colonial times to 1900: acts, bills, committee reports, court rules, debates, journals, ordinances, official publications from France and Great Britain, sessional papers, regulations, royal and departmental commissions and reports, and treaties.

I have visited the headquarters of Early Canadiana Online, located in the Library and Archives Canada building in downtown Ottawa right next door to the Supreme Court of Canada. They have a very sophisticated and massive operation going on there.

The interesting thing about both the B.C. Reports project and the Legere Digital Archive is their relatively small size, so those experiences will be closer to what a local institution considering a modestly ambitious digitization project might face.

The most important things I retained from the discussion today were not technical. Rather, they had to do with the right attitude towards digitization which Anne Crocker touched upon in outlining what she described as the "lessons learned":

  • don't be afraid to start work, even if you aren't absolutely sure of what you are doing and how to do it
  • don't be afraid to ask for help
  • choose a project that is meaningful in terms of your jurisdiction and/or legal expertise
  • find your niche, leave the big projects to the heavy hitters
  • get support of the key players in your organization by making them understand you will be adding value to the enterprise
  • start small to learn about the hardware, the software, the required metadata, how to manipulate documents and enhance images
  • make sure you have the rights or permission to make available the material you intend to digitize
  • celebrate your achievements. The University of New Brunswick Law Library held a reception to launch the Legere Archive and notified the local and regional media. The PR success helped the library obtain funds for later projects

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:17 pm

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